Globalization, Forest Resurgence, and Environmental Politics in El Salvador

Globalization, Forest Resurgence, and Environmental Politics in El Salvador


El Salvador was seen as a classic case study of population growth, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity, yet contemporary studies have not supported these claims. Instead, it has been found that forest cover in El Salvador today is actually greater than previously estimated, including remnant forest, reforested areas, plantations, smallholder and NTFP plantations. This resource explores the potential drivers for this unsuspected reforestation.

Conclusions & Takeaways

The authors conclude that globalization has heavily triggered reforestation in El Salvador. One factor in reforestation was the presence of opposition forces in coastal and montane regions throughout the 1980s-90s. Shade-grown coffee also predominated agriculture throughout the 1990s, while many other nations transitioned to full-sun coffee and to increased pastureland. The war led to emigration of 15% of the nation’s population and internal migration of thousands of people from rural areas to cities. Between 1971 and 2000, the population of the San Salvador GMA increased from 13% to 32% of the population, increasingly relying on remittances from emigres and on non-farm income. While the human cost of this period was high, population reduction in rural areas did contribute to reforestation. On the governmental level, the breakup of large land holding following the Peace Accords from traditional elites towards smallholders has also contributed to greater diversity in the landscape.


Hecht SB, Kandel S, Gomes I, Cuellar N, Rosa H. Globalization, Forest Resurgence, and Environmental Politics in El Salvador. World Development. 2006;34:308–323. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2005.09.005.


  • School of Public Affairs and Institute of the Environment, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
  • Salvadorean Research Program on Development and the Environment (PRISMA), El Salvador