From Disaster to Dignity


From Disaster to Dignity

Mismatches Services Cultural suitability Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Local policies
Financing Public funding
Urban Design Inclusion Segregation Participatory processes
Promotion and production Participatory processes Progressive housing Transformation and adaptation

Main objectives of the project

This savings and credit cooperative set up, run by and for women in rural El Salvador focuses on repairing, rebuilding and improving communities following years of civil unrest and two successive earthquakes.

Through the cooperative, families can access much needed credit and funds for improving homes and one-to-one training to help them manage their finances. By actively empowering women this project helps to create more gender equality in a traditionally male dominated society.

As well as housing, the women have set up a business making environmentally sustainable building materials and they also run a water treatment plant.  The training and employment opportunities they offer to local young people are helping them to remain in their community rather than migrating to urban areas.


  • 2016:


  • Promotor: World Habitat


Continent: South America
City: Tejutepeque
Country/Region: El Salvador


Project Description

In 1998, a group of 110 women started ACAMS (Asociación Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Mujeres Solidarias, The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative). Run by and for women, the cooperative began in the rural town of Tejutepeque in El Salvador. Set up to respond to a succession of problems affecting the community – like poverty, armed conflict and earthquakes – it now has 711 members across three municipalities. Two earthquakes badly affected the region in 2001 and a lack of intervention from the Government led ACAMS to focus their activities on rebuilding homes and strengthening communities.

ACAMS has extended its work beyond Tejutepeque to the neighbouring towns of Cinquera and Jutiapa. The membership of the cooperative is made up of about 10% of the female population of these three towns, which collectively have a total population of about 13,000 people. Many of the women who are members are actively involved the discussions and decision making, which are such an important part of the cooperative.

To achieve their objective of strengthening the community, The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative:

  • Provides credit and raises funds through subsidies for building and improving homes.
  • Provides training for local people including residents and builders in safe and environmentally-sustainable building techniques.
  • Produces locally-sourced, environmentally-sustainable building materials.
  • Provides training for women in household finances, savings and microenterprise management.
  • Sets up community facilities such as training centres and nursing homes for older residents.

Since 2011, ACAMS has given out 2,406 loans to local residents. These loans enable local families on low incomes to build or restore their own homes and also support income-generating activities such as agriculture or small businesses.

The work of The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative receives support from community organisations and EcoSur (a network of organisations concerned with sharing good practice on housing and habitat in the Global South). Financial support is provided by Solidar Suiza, a Swiss non-governmental organisation, and DESWOS, a German non-profit organisation. Although some projects are dependent on external funding, through the use of revolving loans the organisation is able to support the majority of its own core costs. Many families already own a plot to build on. But when this is not the case, the local government of Tejutepeque guarantees access to land by transferring public land to low income households for housing. This transfer happens in progressive stages, with families securing full ownership once they have completed the loan repayment to the cooperative. The local authority also provides financial support for the wider community projects being carried out by the cooperative, via subsidies, for facilities such as the nursing home for older residents.

Aims and Objectives

The main aims of The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative are to:

  • Improve the quality of life for their members and the wider community, especially those who are in poverty.
  • Support low-income families into decent housing through education and access to credit.
  • Increase the number of homes by building and restoring using environmentally friendly, affordable materials.
  • Turn around an area which has suffered from natural disasters and civil war.

Specific objectives include:

  • Involve families in improving their homes and communities.
  • Train builders to construct safe, secure housing.
  • Offer loans with lower interest than market rates to create a sustainable mortgage system.
  • Provide financial education and planning as a condition of obtaining credit.
  • Produce environmentally-sustainable, affordable and practical building materials.
  • Encourage gender equality through supporting empowerment of women in a remote area with few alternative opportunities.

Long term aims include:

  • To extend the cooperative’s membership and services across El Salvador. Still women-led and focused on transparency and democracy and keeping the headquarters in Tejutepeque.
  • To become a leading organisation in construction and finance in El Salvador.


In 1998, after the peace agreements that ended the 12-year civil war in El Salvador, 110 women in the rural town of Tejutepeque decided to start a savings and loans cooperative. ACAMS (The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative) was set up with little external support, to recognise and respond to the needs of local women. Cooperatives run by women for women are rare in Latin America – although inclusive in principal of gender equality, they tend to be dominated by men in practice.

In 2001, when they were halfway through the process of formally becoming a cooperative, El Salvador was hit by two strong earthquakes. A large number of the (roughly) 1,700 homes in Tejutepeque were destroyed or damaged. Without a sufficiently coherent housing policy from the national government, many families had to adopt short-term measures for shelter. These were temporary structures using unsuitable materials, often built by people with little training. Much of the population still lives in homes that are inadequate for their needs. More than half are in poor condition, or too small for the size of the families who live in them.

The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative led the relief efforts after the earthquakes and saw the need to do something about the condition of homes in the area.

To try to improve the situation for their community, ACAMS (the women’s cooperative) support the construction and renovation of safer, more secure housing, and involve the residents themselves in building their own homes. Some households are exempt from construction if they lack the capacity to carry this out – for example, in the case of elderly people without family, or widows with young children. In this case, either the project or the municipality cover the labour needs. They set up a local factory to produce construction materials with the help of Solidar Suiza (a Swiss non-governmental organisation) and the EcoSur network. Their work has developed more widely to support the recovery of their neighbourhoods and communities.

Key Features

ACAMS has achieved impressive growth. Started by a group of 110 women it has now attracted 711 members, 10% of the female population of Tejutepeque and its neighbouring towns of Jutiapa and Cinquera.

The Women’s Solidarity Cooperative focuses on savings, educating families in personal finance, providing people with mortgages for housing, and loans which are used for businesses, livestock, agriculture and agroforestry. ACAMS is run by women, who are often excluded from positions of power and decision-making in El Salvador. The all-female board of directors plans and manages projects with support from EcoSur on specific aspects of construction. The board of directors discusses and identifies activities which will benefit their communities, and ensures the views of both women and men are taken into account. This process has led to new projects like the construction and management of a nursing home, community centre and training centre.

Housing is constructed by young people who have taken part in a formal training scheme. This programme includes practical training, lasts 18 months, and closes with examinations and receiving a diploma. The youths are trained in groups of ten (so far only men have participated). Most of them come from families that have benefitted from the housing programme.

These young apprentices are in charge of carrying out the skilled tasks in housing construction, under the supervision of an instructor. The individual cooperative members benefiting from the housing programme will join in the construction process through sweat equity. They do this with the support of at least one helper to support them in the process (family member or paid labourer).

EcoSur provides advice and support through knowledge exchange with its partner Sofonias Nicaragua. In particular they help to monitor the construction projects and provide technical assistance from architects and engineers.

What impact has it had?

The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative (ACAMS) has helped to educate and inspire women across the area to take decisions, support their families and make a difference in their communities.

Since 2006, ACAMS members have built 214 homes and provided more than 630 families with access to credit to carry out repairs. A further 60 homes are currently under construction, and it is hoped more funding will be secured in 2019. New families have started to come to ACAMS with their own finances, to ask for support with the design and construction of their homes.

ACAMS plays an important role in developing communities as well as improving housing. There are several active groups that support the wider community in areas like learning in the community, gender equality, household finances and health. The community in Tejutepeque recognised the need to provide better support for elderly people, which had for example had been asking for a nursing home for several years. This was finally built with the support of local government. The participation of women has helped recognise and tackle issues that affect women in particular, such as ensuring privacy in bathrooms.

By providing credit and encouraging saving, the cooperative reaches the poorest families using subsidies from foreign aid. One-to-one support is given to families to help them avoid entering into unmanageable debt agreements with other credit suppliers. They are also supported to understand the risks of borrowing and how to budget based on their income and expenditure, taking a proactive, preventative approach to managing debt.

How is it funded?

The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative (ACAMS) provides savings and credit services and its lending activities are supervised by the state. The ACAMS mortgage fund is financed through the interest it charges on its loans. The cooperative’s other activities (training and community support) are funded separately. DESWOS funding contributes around 15% (around €23,000 (US$25,991) a year to core costs, including staff.

A factory which produces environmentally-sustainable building materials and a water treatment facility set up to serve the community also generate an income. These two enterprises have helped to fund community projects like the community centre, nursing home and training school. The income also helps ACAMS’s wider activities, like promoting environmentally-sustainable activities.

  • Solidar Suiza:
    • Initial US$2,400 to legally register as a cooperative.
    • US$20,000 for the production of materials.
  • DESWOS (Deutsche Entwicklungshilfe für soziales Wohnungs- und Siedlungswesen, German Development Aid for Social Housing and Housing):
    • €1.5 million euros (US$1,675,125) for the construction of 186 homes (since 2007).
    • €100,000 (US$111,675) for the construction of the community centre and nursing home.
  • Stadt Zürich: €100,000 (US$111,675) for the renovation of 80 homes.
  • DESWOS and local government: €60,000 (US$67,005) for the construction of the training school.

The cost of ACAMS housing to families is approximately US$150 per square metre, compared to around US$200-250 at market rate. (This refers to the construction costs: materials, transport and labour).

Why is it innovative?

There are very few women’s co-operatives in Latin America, particularly in remote areas. Despite this, The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative set up with little external support. They saw cooperatives as a male dominated field and encouraged other women to get involved. Their approach to restoring and strengthening their communities is based on democracy and transparency. This is particularly important in rebuilding trust in communities which were divided and traumatised by a 12-year civil war. The participatory nature of the cooperative, particularly amongst women, is innovative in a society which has little background in seeking inclusive solutions.

ACAMS researched environmentally-sustainable construction and set up a way of producing materials locally for themselves. Two of the building materials they produce (roof tiles and flooring panels) were introduced to El Salvador through their relationship with the EcoSur network.

Their savings and credit scheme has become a strong focal point of the community. It guarantees ongoing communication between members and the management team. Daily contact occurs when women deposit their savings or apply for credit. Social and educational programmes provide advice and training on personal finances and household finances.

What is the environmental impact?

The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative (ACAMS) has a small factory which produces micro-concrete tiles[1] (for roofs), ferrocement panels[2] (for flooring), and concrete blocks. The tiles and panels are durable and have substantially lower embodied energy[3] than more commonly used materials. These two materials were introduced to El Salvador through the relationship of ACAMS with the EcoSur network. As they are made locally this makes the building process less harmful for the environment. Building locally means the price is lower. The products are sold to the general public.

The EcoSur network and the University of Zürich carried out a study of the ACAMS approach to producing construction materials. The study showed that their approach reduces the consumption of cement, steel and sand compared to traditional techniques.

In the countryside, adobe walls of earth and organic materials are built where the land is suitable and materials are available. All of the construction work undertaken by the community meets national government building standards, which offer good resilience to earthquakes. After homes were damaged by the earthquakes in 2001, much of the work to rebuild them was poorly carried out, affecting the trust of communities in construction methods. The work that the cooperative has done has helped to restore confidence.

The Women’s Solidarity Cooperative works with local government to raise awareness of how everyone can protect the environment. Changes to local regulations have helped lead to changes in behaviour, such as separating rubbish for recycling and not burning waste. This relationship has also led to several tree planting days and has improved the protection of replanted areas.

[1] These tiles are made out of cement and sand with low-tech equipment. They are 10 mm thick, and are placed on top of a wooden or metal-based roof structure. These tiles are very resilient to earthquakes and hurricaines (

[2] Ferrocement or ferro-cement is reinforced mortar or plaster (lime or cement, sand and water) applied over a layer of metal mesh, woven expanded-metal or metal-fibres and closely spaced thin steel rods. It is used to construct relatively thin, hard, strong surfaces (

[3] Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the mining and processing of natural resources to manufacturing, transport and product delivery

Is it financially sustainable?

The savings and credit activities of the cooperative are financially stable as they use the interest received on mortgage payments. This is the most important activity for ACAMS, which plans to continue offering loans and advice on repairing and restoring homes to support itself in the future. Several commercial activities run by the cooperative contribute to its income, including a water treatment plant and the ACAMS factory which produces and sells building materials. These facilities employ six people.

The construction of new homes is funded entirely by DESWOS (Deutsche Entwicklungshilfe für soziales Wohnungs- und Siedlungswesen, German Development Aid for Social Housing and Housing). They are currently (in 2017) providing funding for 60 new homes in Barrio Santa Rita, and work is underway to attract funding for a similar project in Cinquera in 2019.

The training programme in house building is dependent on external finance. Due to its success so far, it has secured further funding from DESWOS. The mortgage fund is financed by repayments from the families, which amount to approximately US$50,000 per year. This allows ACAMS to fund around 15 mortgages per year independently and additional external funding has allowed more people to rebuild their homes.

The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative promotes savings and supports residents to be financially responsible. Families are expected to agree a budget before they can qualify for a housing loan. Loans are partially subsidised (generally around 50%) to make them affordable, and the organisation reports very few problems with recovering loan repayments.

Training courses to support women in business and personal development are funded by ACAMS through their own income generating activities and with continued help from Solidar Suiza.

What is the social impact?

The cooperative has a strong commitment to the community and actively promotes inclusion. The committee of members includes people from all sectors of society, including the leaders of both political parties and several churches. This also led to a committee being set up to represent older people. This collaboration was an important aspect in the development of the nursing home and in ensuring it would be maintained.

ACAMS prioritise education as a means of improving lives and empowering women to be in charge of their own situation. They are expected to make financial decisions and to lead family discussions about getting involved in construction. Many of the cooperative’s loans support women to set up small businesses, so training provided on topics like economics and managing micro-enterprises complements this. The cooperative also holds classes in herbal medicine, food and nutrition, reproductive and sexual health, and health and hygiene. Through these activities cooperative members have noted a change in the confidence, pride and capacity of communities.

ACAMS provide training for young people as part of their work to rebuild and restore homes. Each training course provides eight weeks of theoretical classes (taught by an EcoSur instructor), and work experience for 18 months under the supervision of a master builder. The courses accommodate ten young people at a time. ACAMS training courses are promoted and supported by the Ministry of Education in El Salvador which built a training centre and provides materials for students.

Improving sanitation is important to the project, requiring bathrooms to be included in the design of homes. This guarantees hygiene and privacy, taking into account the differing needs of men and women. One community developed a facility which combines a toilet, shower and laundry using rainwater from the roof. This idea has been transferred to other communities working with the cooperative.


The location of the project was an area of conflict during the civil war. In the aftermath people became accustomed to charitable donations and aid programmes. This mind-set needed to change to a culture of families improving their own living conditions through savings and credit schemes.

In a traditionally male-dominated society, women were not typically involved in decision making. The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative provided inclusive education to promote equality and encourage women to take ownership of this community-based programme.

ACAMS has found that it doesn’t have enough funding to respond to the level of demand for credit. However, the cooperative embraces the ‘small is beautiful’ approach, aiming to support 30 to 40 families each year, and works to remain financially sustainable.

Lessons Learned

  • It is easier to solve the problems which arise when the community works together.
  • Creating more jobs creates opportunities for families to increase income and improve access to credit.
  • The training centre provides training in theory and practice. This combination of approaches has worked very well in supporting the development of skills in the community.
  • Women were empowered to become independent and make their own financial decisions through actively participating in income-generating activities.
  • Housing is just one aspect of improving ‘habitat’ and education is vital to raise awareness.
  • Training staff is important in making a strong and effective organisation.
  • Each family requires individual attention depending on their needs and the problems they face.


An independent auditor evaluates the project twice a year to monitor the distribution of funds. Annual visits from donors and the EcoSur network includes regular monitoring by specialists.

The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative has carried out impact assessments of the cooperative and has published a study on the ‘Municipal Policy for Gender Equity’.

An in-depth evaluation is due to be conducted in 2018. This will consider the impact of the project on three levels: personal, community and national. Cooperative members will take part and an external expert will analyse and publish the results. This evaluation will be used as a learning tool for the ACAMS management team and members of the cooperative.


There have been several visits from other EcoSur network members from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Honduras and Germany. ACAMS have also hosted visits from European Union representatives, UN-Habitat and several donors.

The project has been featured in EcoSur’s e-magazine and DESWOS publications.


Six different groups of women started to develop micro-concrete tiles with support from The Women’s Solidarity Savings and Loans Cooperative and EcoSur. Two of the groups have managed to establish themselves in the market. This is still a real achievement in transfer as the market for building materials is highly competitive and male-dominated.

ACAMS has provided services and support to cooperatives from other areas, including ACOTEJERA in Sonsonate; ACOVENCE in Usulután, and ACEDE in San Vicente.

The Women’s Solidarity Cooperative has presented at international events across Central America, Cuba and Ecuador. Groups of women from Cuba and Nicaragua have visited to investigate the possibility of setting up housing co-operatives based on the savings and credit scheme. The cooperative members believe the different elements of their approach can be easily transferred but the biggest challenge is having the right conditions to bring the community together.

In 2008, ACAMS organised a conference on environmentally-friendly building materials for planners from across Central America. They also regularly participate in meetings at a national level.

The cooperative organised a discussion on the theme ‘WASH’ (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene), specifically to hear the perspectives of women. An outcome from this was the development of a community facility comprising a toilet, shower and laundry. This went on to be promoted more widely by EcoSur and has been replicated in Haiti, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba.



How the community rescued the historic centre of San Salvador


How the community rescued the historic centre of San Salvador

Mismatches Location Security Functional adequacy Demographic/Urban growth
Policies and regulations Regulation Land Governance
Financing Public funding Progressive financing
Urban Design Urban fabrics Inclusion
Promotion and production
Ownership and tenure

Main objectives of the project

Political and social unrest has affected El Salvador for many years.  The centre of its capital, San Salvador, is an area of historical and cultural significance but has suffered from violence and dereliction.

Many of the households living in the historical centre are among the poorest and most socially excluded in the city. Until recently, they lived in very poor conditions, in unsafe buildings and without proper infrastructure.

Together with a network of organisations campaigning for housing rights across Latin America, the community has won the right to own and build on the land. Through activism, collaboration and support, poor quality shacks have been replaced with safe, colourful, and permanently affordable homes, owned by the community themselves.

The regeneration of San Salvador’s historical centre has provided hope and inspiration and has increased the growth of mutual aid housing cooperatives, where people work together and support each other to provide their own homes.


  • 2017:



Continent: South America
Country/Region: El Salvador, San Salvador


Project Description

Many historic town and city centres in El Salvador have suffered years of neglect and a lack of investment. Housing within these areas is often in disrepair, lacks basic services and puts residents at risk of eviction and poor health.

Through a programme of training, funding and collaboration, a network of organisations including FUNDASAL (the Salvadorian foundation for development and adequate housing), FESCOVAM (the Salvadorian federation of mutual aid housing cooperatives) and FUCVAM (the Uruguayan federation of mutual aid housing cooperatives) has worked to help the local community to set up the first five mutual aid housing cooperatives[1] in the city’s historic centre.

With training and support, the cooperatives of the San Salvador historic centre convinced the Salvadorian Government of the cultural importance of their neighbourhood and of their right to be housed there safely.

In 2008, the Salvadorian Government provided one plot of land to the new cooperatives at a nominal price. Two more plots were bought from private landowners. FUNDASAL raised funds to cover technical training to help the residents design and construct their homes. Two of the first five cooperatives, ACOVICHSS and ACOVIVAMSE, replaced and/or renovated run-down buildings in the inner city using designs inspired by its historic features. Instead of using new land, existing buildings were replaced and extended upwards. They designed the new buildings to include shared public spaces and provided areas for commercial activities. The cooperatives built colourful multi-storey blocks, designing them around a central courtyard to maximise natural light and ventilation. This comprehensive programme has revitalised the city centre and has created a sense of pride in the community. (The other three cooperatives are in the process of developing housing projects).

By 2013, ACOVICHSS and ACOVIVAMSE had built 61 homes in three blocks, housing 240 people. Seventy per cent of these were women-headed households, often living on very low incomes in informal employment. The work to set up new cooperatives in the historic centre deliberately focused on the most vulnerable households (women, children and young people). Their situation made raising or borrowing money very difficult, but by working together the cooperatives won legal recognition, and secured land from the Government to build and manage their own housing.

Affordability is ensured for those living in the new cooperatives, even for those on very low incomes. This is achieved through a combination of mutual aid (sweat equity – contributing to costs with labour) which decreases overall building costs, subsidy from funders, and by all members paying into a shared Relief Fund which helps vulnerable members when they are faced with temporary financial difficulty.

By 2017, eight more mutual aid housing cooperatives (13 in total) had formed in the historic centre. The collective effort of the housing cooperatives and the organisations and networks supporting them helped convince the Salvadorian Government to raise €9,000,000 (US$10,043,820), through an agreement with the Government of Italy. This will provide new homes for a further 325 families (1,300 people). This is an outstanding achievement as it demonstrates a commitment from the Government to securing adequate and affordable housing for inner-city residents, paving the way for more people to claim their right to land and safe, secure housing.

[1] Mutual aid housing cooperatives involve people working together and supporting each other to provide their own homes. The approach uses ‘sweat equity’, meaning people contribute towards the cost of building their homes with their own labour. Homes are collectively owned by members of the cooperative.

Aims and Objectives

The main aims of this work are to support local families to take ownership of and improve their own homes, and to preserve and protect the historic centre of San Salvador. The community along with FUNDASAL, FESCOVAM and other networks are working to:

  • Protect families from being forced out of the historic centre by helping them legally access land and ensuring their housing costs are affordable.
  • Improve the homes of families living in poor conditions, ensuring they have access to basic services.
  • Restore the historic centre of San Salvador for the benefit of the whole community.
  • Avoid the need for the expansion of informal settlements outside the city centre.
  • Support the whole community to thrive through a variety of cultural, artistic and educational activities, including people who are often excluded (like women, children, young people, older people or disabled people).

Longer term aims are to:

  • Set up mutual aid housing cooperatives across El Salvador that can work together to provide their own housing.
  • Support mutual aid housing cooperatives to influence the Government so they recognise housing as a human right and provide funding and land for housing.
  • Ensure all the residents of the historic centre of San Salvador are properly and safely housed.


Before 2001, the historic centre of San Salvador was in a state of deterioration. Twenty-nine per cent of the centre’s population was living in informal settlements, characterised by a lack of basic services, overcrowding, a risk of eviction and an unhealthy environment due to poor sanitation and waste disposal. Many of the people living in these conditions were very vulnerable, with high numbers of women and young people on very low incomes. Eighty-four per cent of the families in the informal settlements were living on less than a quarter of minimum wage (US$55 per month – compared to the minimum wage of US$220). Fifty-seven per cent of the women work in informal employment.

Key Features

Local people are enabled to provide themselves with permanent, safe housing through mutual aid housing cooperatives. The most important features of the mutual aid approach in relation to this project are collective ownership and management of housing. All decisions are taken by the members of the housing cooperatives (the people who live or plan to live in the homes). They organise their own committees for designing and building homes, which also creates strong ties between residents as they work together on decision-making. FUNDASAL provides technical advice and helps attract funding for the new housing cooperatives. They carry out training and education programmes and give flexible support to each group. Members of new housing cooperatives share knowledge and encourage others to join their cooperative or create new ones.

Within this project, an important aim is the protection and preservation of the historic centre of San Salvador. This has been achieved by accommodating families in high quality high-rise blocks which are designed with the local architectural style in mind, rather than building outside the centre of the city. This new housing replaced the very poor quality shacks they had previously occupied and rented. Work to improve the historic centre has extended to shared spaces such as courtyards and playgrounds, an inner-city orchard, and colourful murals and statues which have revitalised the area.

Several organisations collaborated alongside the new cooperatives to achieve the rescue of the historic centre:

  • FUNDASAL (the Salvadorian foundation for development and adequate housing): Works with communities to organise training, funding and support, to grow the number of mutual aid housing cooperatives across El Salvador
  • FUCVAM (Uruguayan federation of mutual aid housing cooperatives): Helped to transfer their approach of setting up mutual aid housing cooperatives to San Salvador (this transfer approach won the World Habitat Awards in 2012).
  • FESCOVAM (the Salvadorian federation of mutual aid housing cooperatives): exercise political influence on the Government.
  • San Salvador local government: Sold land to the housing cooperatives at a token price.
  • FPDICHSS (Permanent Forum for the Integral Development of the Historical Centre of San Salvador): An alliance of different organisations and groups working together to protect the historic centre of San Salvador. The cooperatives of San Salvador have been active in this group since 2005. FUNDASAL became a member in 2007. FUNDASAL was one of the founding members, and the cooperatives started being represented in the Forum by FESCOVAM in 2015.

What impact has it had?

The work to support community-led regeneration in the historic centre of San Salvador has led to safe, secure housing for a growing number of people who were previously living in very poor conditions, at risk of eviction in unsafe buildings. It has helped make the neighbourhood a better place to live in by replacing run-down buildings with new apartment blocks and providing quality public space. Working together and doing activities together like growing their own food, has helped develop closer relationships and supportive networks within the community.

Local and national government, civil society organisations and academics have recognised the success of the approach in improving housing and strengthening communities. In 2008 official, legal recognition of the historic city centre of San Salvador from the Government of El Salvador was achieved. They also reformed the law relating to Cooperative Associations, which permitted mutual aid housing cooperatives to be legally recognised. This led to the allocation of public land and funding to the cooperatives so that they could build their new homes.

These activities and achievements led to a new National Policy on Housing and Habitat in 2015. The introduction of a new National Law on Housing and Habitat is currently being discussed (in 2017). FUNDASAL and FESCOVAM are also influencing conversations about the application of the New Urban Agenda in El Salvador [1].

[1] The New Urban Agenda is an international commitment by governments and many other participants (including civil society groups, indigenous peoples, local communities the private sector and academic community) to improve the well-being of all citizens in urban areas across the world.

How is it funded?

The funding for this programme has focused on three areas:

Research and Advocacy

  • CORDAID and MISEREOR (Catholic non-governmental organisations which help people in poverty and distress) provided funding to support FUNDASAL’s research and its work to promote mutual aid housing cooperatives to the government and others.
    • CORDAID US$333,292 (2001-2008)
    • MISEREOR US$143,743 (2006-2008)

Training and community building

  • WeEffect – have provided funding for training and education initiatives relating to the regeneration of San Salvador since 2004. This includes:
    • From 2004 to 2007, US$609,360 to train the FUNDASAL Technical Support Team, so they could advise housing cooperatives on financial management and building methods.
    • From 2008 to 2016, US$1,802,029 to set up a Cooperative Training School across Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador); train cooperatives to grow their own food within the city centre; provide further training for the FUNDASAL Technical Support Team; support specific projects by ACOVIVAMSE and ACOVICHSS (housing cooperatives) such as a community project to paint murals.
    • In 2017, US$292,800 to support further training for the FUNDASAL Technical Support Team.
  • Vastenactie (a Catholic relief organisation based in the Netherlands) provided US$13,113 (2014-2015) to support training of cooperatives to create organic/hydroponic orchards in the centre.
    • Provides technical advice to communities who want to grow their own food within the city.
    • Provides start-up loans to help set up new local businesses and other activities which strengthen the community.


  • AECID (the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation) provided a combination of grant and loan funding to ACOVICHSS (Asociación Cooperativa De Vivienda Por Ayuda Mutua Del Centro Histórico De San Salvador), one of the first housing cooperatives to build their new homes through the project.
    • Funding to ACOVICHSS from AECID: US$1,067,064 (2008-2010) for land and construction of two housing complexes.
  • FUNDASAL set up a revolving loan fund to support mutual housing cooperatives, so repayments from one project in El Salvador can be used to fund the next. With the support of KfW (a German government-owned development bank), so far one housing cooperative in San Salvador (ACOVIVAMSE, Asociación Cooperativa de Vivienda por Ayuda Mutua San Esteban) has been partially funded in this way. This approach of recycled funding will continue to support new projects.
    • Grant and loan funding to ACOVIVAMSE (from the FUNDASAL revolving fund with support from KfW): US$837,901 (2011-2013) for land and construction of housing

To continue the work to regenerate the historic centre of San Salvador into the future, funding will include:

  • Repayment of loans by ACOVICHSS (housing cooperative) will be reinvested by AECID (the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation). This is made up of two loans to be repaid by the cooperative over 15 years.
    • AECID loan: US$30,016 (granted in 2009) to be repaid over 15 years in instalments of US$300 per month.
    • AECID loan: US$22,512 (granted in 2011) to be repaid over 15 years in instalments of US$225 per month.
  • Repayments by ACOVIVAMSE (housing cooperative). These will go back into the revolving fund set up by FUNDASAL and KfW. Repayments will be returned over 20 years. The loan amount is US$293,747 plus an additional loan of US$2,549, which was granted in 2013.
  • Funding of €9,000,000 (US$10,043,820) contributed by the Government of Italy to the Government of El Salvador which they will use to support new housing cooperatives to continue forming and building new homes in the historic centre of San Salvador (2018-2020).

The costs of building the new homes are as follows:

  • Housing blocks built by the ACOVIVAMSE housing cooperative: US$29,775.
  • Housing blocks built by the ACOVICHSS housing cooperative: US$50,797 (these costs are higher than the above since in this case the government did not fund the access to land).
  • Housing blocks to be funded by the Government of El Salvador (2018-2020) using funds from the Government of Italy: US$27,692.

Why is it innovative?

  • The residents, supported by FUNDASAL and FESCOVAM, have built a strong, independent community, starting with the most vulnerable and excluded. A range of educational and training activities have built the confidence, health and well-being of the residents of the historic centre of San Salvador. The revolving fund FUNDASAL set up with KfW means repayments from one cooperative can help others in the future.
  • The approach of building up instead of out and replacing existing buildings has allowed the community to remain together while protecting the wider area. This has preserved the historic features of the centre of San Salvador, restoring some of its character using designs that complement its original style, and replacing buildings previously damaged by disasters.
  • The new buildings also incorporate bioclimatic features. They are designed to work with the local climate to provide comfort. Basic elements of the bioclimatic design include passive solar systems which are incorporated into buildings and use environmental sources (for example, the sun, wind, vegetation, water etc.) for heating, cooling and lighting the buildings.[1][1]

This work has helped gain legal recognition, funding and support for mutual aid housing cooperatives from the Government of El Salvador. This means a stronger voice for FESCOVAM (the Salvadorian federation of mutual aid housing cooperatives) and its members in discussions about housing policy.

What is the environmental impact?

The housing cooperatives in the historic centre of San Salvador have replaced existing buildings rather than built new ones outside the centre. This means improved homes can be provided while protecting the wider area from the environmental damage caused by the construction of new buildings. Using land which is already built on also means that existing infrastructure is used. Basic services such as water and sewage systems are more likely to be in place or locally available.

Properties are designed around a central courtyard which means natural light and air can be used for lighting and ventilation and the buildings are more resistant to natural disasters. Because the communities are now well organised, this also improves their ability to respond to natural disasters.

Cooperatives have started growing food within the city centre using organoponic (organic/hydroponic) orchards. This is a form of urban agriculture which can be replicated. It typically uses low concrete walls filled with organic matter and soil, with lines of drip irrigation laid on the surface.

Is it financially sustainable?

  • The new buildings include homes and a commercial space on the ground floor, so the housing cooperatives can set up businesses such as workshops or commercial spaces to generate income for the local economy.
  • The orchards set up in the historic centre will also help to provide affordable food for local families.
  • The approach has ensured people living in the housing cooperatives can afford the cost of the new homes by working out maximum housing costs based on member’s capacity to pay.
  • Training of housing cooperative members has helped some of them find employment in construction, providing jobs and financial stability.
  • To guarantee secure housing for community members involved in the project, a funds was set up to cover any shortfalls in housing payments: the Relief Fund use contributions from the cooperative members.
  • While initial funding came from external donor organisations, the new Government funding represents a shift in their attitude. This funding has been committed from 2018 to 2020, and FUNDASAL and FESCOVAM are in conversation (in 2017) with the Salvadorian Government about a new National Law on Housing and Habitat.

    What is the social impact?

    This work has improved living conditions for some of the city’s poorest residents, who have secured the right to remain within the historic centre and to stay together as a community. The sense of solidarity created through the whole process of developing the newly formed housing cooperatives means people look after each other. This also extends to financial support. For example, if the parents of children living in the cooperatives die, their housing payments will be covered by the other cooperative members (through the Relief Fund) until they are old enough to take over. Cooperatives in San Salvador hold ‘solidarity days’ where they come together to contribute to housing construction their community. In addition, these days also include a shared lunch, which offers a space for socialising and discussing, along with a time for participatory discussions on how to transfer the project’s work, methodologies, and the cooperative model. These activities help strengthen the work of each cooperative, along with personal links between members. They are now active members of their communities and networks at local, national and regional levels fighting for safe, secure and adequate housing for all. Being part of a national network has drawn people from cooperatives all over the country to San Salvador to help.

    Members of the housing cooperatives have increased confidence and are better able to lead within the community. Seventy per cent are women, many of who previously had few opportunities. Two new schools to train cooperative members (funded by WeEffect) about political engagement and how to run a successful cooperative have been set up to help this continue.

    New buildings and improvements to public spaces have regenerated the historic centre of San Salvador for the benefit of the whole community. The involvement of the new housing cooperatives in FPDICHSS (the Permanent Forum for the Integral Development of the Historic Centre of San Salvador) has strengthened the ability of the community to work together. They have organised neighbourhood festivals, and carried out improvements to public spaces such as parks and squares. Young people have been encouraged to get involved through activities like football tournaments, mural painting and making statues for the area. A new museum for children, “Tin Marin” has been set up by FUNDASAL to provide access to education and culture for the local and surrounding population.


    People living in informal settlements in the historic centre had historically been excluded from decision-making in society. Initially this prevented residents from actively participating in the community and often led to conflict or distrust. However, the first housing cooperative members to build improved housing for themselves in San Salvador (ACOVICHSS) demonstrated what was possible and inspired others to take part.

    Financial support from the government for housing was lacking and there was no appropriate legal framework before 2008. This was overcome by collaborating with FESCOVAM (the Salvadorian federation of mutual housing cooperatives) to convince the Government to make the changes needed and provide land and funding. Reinventing the historic centre has also helped to stir interest in the project and has increased the support for changes in public policies. However, further expansion of this model will be limited if Government support is discontinued in the future or if the ability of people to help themselves is underestimated.

    The first pieces of land selected by the housing cooperatives for the new phase of the project (to be funded by the Salvadorian Government) did not meet the requirements for development. This was overcome by identifying alternative land so that the building could go ahead.

    Lessons Learned

    • The next cooperatives to build are developing ways in which the Salvadorian government can guarantee land and funding in a more sustainable and secure manner so that more housing can be built in the future.
    • Building upwards and not outwards helps slow down the expansion of urban areas and works as a way of effectively regenerating historic centres.
    • The work of FUCVAM (the Uruguayan Federation of Mutual Aid Housing Cooperatives) to train new mutual aid housing cooperatives in El Salvador shows the approach can be adapted to local contexts, where challenges might differ but keeping the mutual aid model and lobbying the government for adequate legislation and funding remains relevant.
    • Encouraging lots of different people and organisations to work together is an effective way of making a difference to people’s housing conditions.


    • FUNDASAL evaluates the project by looking at a range of indicators, including:
      • Participation and empowerment of women (numbers in management positions; numbers supporting themselves financially, skills acquired).
      • Number of successful applications for finance and land.
      • Number of people who have received training.
      • Number of social activities that help reinforce housing cooperatives.
    • Internal evaluations are carried out by the housing cooperatives themselves, in addition to independent external evaluations organised by FUNDASAL.

    Evaluation has found that:

    • Women have been empowered to participate and increase leadership through the project.
    • The work has resulted in safe, secure and affordable housing for inhabitants of the historic centre of San Salvador who were living in very poor conditions.
    • The project has strengthened the confidence of the housing cooperative members to work together to take control of their own housing.
    • Because those involved in the project gained confidence in expressing their views regarding policies, this helped achieve their legal recognition from the Salvadorian Government, helping to secure the housing rights of its citizens.


    The regeneration of the historic centre of San Salvador has received two prizes for best practice and obtained significant media attention.

    • 2008 – National Urbanism Prize (given by the Vice Ministry of Housing and Urban Development) and the International Best Practices Prize (awarded by the Swedish Co-operative Centre – now WeEffect).
    • 2010 – Dubai Award for Best Practices awarded to FUNDASAL for the Recovery of the housing complex in the Historical Centre of San Salvador
    • Twenty-five articles covering the project in newspapers.
    • Several TV and radio interviews.


    As a direct outcome of this programme there are now 13 mutual aid housing cooperatives in the historic centre of San Salvador. The work has inspired others, and FUNDASAL are sharing their experience to help transfer the approach. This is happening in other historic centres in El Salvador, like Suchitoto in Cuscatlán, and Zacatecoluca in La Paz – where a flexible financial model is currently being set up. The local government in Los Nonualcos is working to promote housing rights and has produced a plan to regenerate its own historic centres. The two training centres (focusing on political engagement and cooperative development) set up through the project will strengthen the knowledge and capacity of housing cooperatives in the region.

    Involvement of the housing cooperatives from El Salvador with COCEAVIS (a network for mutual aid housing cooperatives in Central America) is helping to share and transfer knowledge and practice regarding different mutual housing models, including as a tool for rehabilitation of historic centres. And through this network, FUNDASAL has helped provide technical assistance when setting up 65 new mutual aid housing cooperatives across Central America; in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico and has included lessons from this project. They are also exchanging experiences with organisations working to regenerate Hebron, Palestine. In addition, FUNDASAL is providing funding to housing cooperatives to buy land in Guatemala and Nicaragua.

    The regeneration of the historic centre of San Salvador has influenced the Salvadorian Government to continue to support and invest in new mutual aid housing cooperatives. This is set out in official policy documents, including their five-year development plan for 2014 – 2019.


    Rural Habitat Improvements


    Rural Habitat Improvements

    Mismatches Cultural suitability New family structures
    Urban Design Urban fabrics Liveability
    Promotion and production Self-promotion Progressive housing

    Main objectives of the project


    • 2014:


    • Promotor: World Habitat


    Continent: South America
    Country/Region: El Salvador, San Salvador


    A project led by FUNDASAL (the Salvadoran Foundation for Development and Low-cost Housing) to improve health and housing standards in the deprived rural settlements of canton El Pinalito in county Santa Ana, where the risk from disasters caused by natural phenomena such as earthquakes is high and services and infrastructure are poor. Supported by a wide partnership of organisations, the project has helped to significantly reduce the incidence of Chagas disease and other illnesses related to the poor condition of the habitat and has improved the durability of housing. Chagas disease is a tropical parasitic disease spread by insects that live in cracks and gaps found in poor quality housing, it is endemic to South and Central America. The objective of FUNDASAL and partners is to achieve a transferable model of intervention which will not require external funding, so the project embeds knowledge within the local communities and enables the use of locally sourced building materials. The inclusion and training of local households and support groups is integral to this project.


    Project Description

    What are its aims and objectives?

    The project aims to contribute to the establishment of a replicable intervention model for the control of Chagas disease and reduced incidence of other illnesses, with the support of state institutions. It does so by tackling the physical and social vulnerabilities in canton El Pinalito in county Santa Ana, where the incidence of Chagas disease is highest.

    What context does it operate in?

    Many houses in El Salvador are self-built and not strong enough to withstand hazards or extreme natural phenomena such as earthquakes. Poor housing conditions and lack of support services enable the proliferation of insects that transmit Chagas, malaria, dengue, respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions and many other diseases.

    Much of the local housing is built with earth and cracks in the structures harbour insects (such as the “beaked bug” that transmits Chagas disease). Around a quarter of people who contract Chagas disease develop cardiac problems which lead to heart failure. Other bugs are carried by animals that are allowed to sleep indoors.

    Many households in the area do not have security of tenure due to legal issues regarding entitlement and ownership which cause complications regarding their ability to address problems with their homes.The local economy is heavily reliant on agriculture, so adjustments had to be made to the project’s implementation and engagement activities to accommodate the farming calendar, for example, when local people have to focus on crop harvesting.

    Religious ceremonies are also highly important to local people, with similar adjustments being necessary to account for this.

    What are its key features?

    The principal objective of the project is to prevent diseases such as Chagas by tackling the underlying physical causes, especially poor housing, alongside awareness raising, education and social action (where other approaches have been mainly medical or educational only). Structural improvements were based on ideas first tested by the PUCP (Pontifical Catholic University of Peru) and then locally adapted through research in collaboration with the University of El Salvador and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The project also encourages sustainability and reduced costs through the use of local materials.

    A participatory approach was used in establishing the project, to inform and empower the communities involved, regardless of gender or age. Planning was carried out with the input of local families, ADESCOs (community development organisations) and local training institutions.

    The programme provides training across the breadth of the community being supported, through a variety of mechanisms. These include:

    • Training for families.
    • Training for young people via schools.
    • Support for community development organisations to improve self-management skills.
    • Training for health committees and inter-communal organisations.
    • Practical and theoretical training in technical construction for fieldwork staff and families on the improvement and construction of housing and sanitation.

    Practical interventions include:

    • Physical intervention on housing and surroundings, for example, to cracked clay walls and floors, at the same time reinforcing walls to withstand earthquakes.
    • Legal support regarding the human right to decent housing. Many of the project participants were settlers in the area but the legal structure of ownership entailed the land to others. FUNDASAL provided advice and explored a variety of legal mechanisms (such as bailment and inheritance law) to expand the number of families reached.

    The intervention programme is supported by several key partners:

    • The Ministry of Health, which supported the project by measuring the impact of changes to housing, contributing to the provision of training, monitoring the presence of disease-carrying insects and undertaking other measures of disease prevention in the target community, such as fumigation.
    • The Ministry of Education, which made facilities available and integrated health issues into the curriculum, involving teachers and improving the physical condition of local schools.
    • The Municipality of Santa Ana, which provided administrative support and contributed staff and other resources
    • The Community Investment Committee of TELUS International El Salvador (TELUS is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Canada), which supported youth activities and awareness raising.
    • Four community development associations (ADESCOs), which are legally recognised community-led groups committed to local improvement, training and development. These were ADESCOLME, ADESCOMAR, ADESCOES and ADESCO LA ESPERANZA.

    How is it funded?

    The project received financial support from a number of different organisations. These were:

    • FUNDASAL (the Salvadoran Foundation for Development and Low-cost Housing).
    • Manos Unidas (a Spanish NGO with a focus on reducing the effects of poverty through interventions in agriculture, health, education, social development and the advancement of women), which acted as the co-ordinator for the project and facilitated access to funding from five Spanish local or regional authorities. These were the Government of Cantabria; the City and Provincial Councils of Guadalajara; the Provincial Council of Valencia and the City Council of Pamplona.
    • MISEREOR (the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation, which supports the principle of help towards self-help).
    • Two national awards (in the form of financial contributions) given by the Gloria de Kriete Foundation (based in El Salvador, which provides support to organisations committed to the well-being and improvement of Salvadorian families).
    • TELUS International El Salvador (TELUS is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Canada).

    The programme was carried out over two main phases and four interphases. The total cost was US$1,464,851.21. Donor contributions paid for staff, building works, transportation, training, equipment and materials and various facilities. Communities contributed labour and local authorities provided new and existing staff to collaborate with the programme.

    The project also benefited from a number of non-financial donations such as training and support from a range of partners.

    What impact has it had?

    The project has benefited over 300 impoverished and excluded families in ten rural settlements with no access to adequate housing or public or private programmes. It has helped to strengthen community cohesion; rather than acting individually, people now have learned to address problems together. The training provided has helped to embed improved health behaviour and increase the quality of housing, as well as putting in place institutional support from permanent institutions like the health service.

    Local communities have been empowered to improve their own situation through:

    • Greater awareness and knowledge about various diseases and what causes them, leading to changes in behaviour. Two major hygiene surveys involving hundreds of families have shown a huge increase in awareness of Chagas disease and its causes and in hygiene behaviour and a reduction in presence of the bug.
    • Training in self-applied improvements to homes and services (sanitation, kitchen) which benefits their health and safety and raises living standards.
    • Increased community cohesion and joint problem-solving.
    • Establishment of an umbrella organisation which now represents and advocates for the communities on a wider scale.
    • A strengthened role for women, both in project implementation and taking a lead.

    Neighbouring communities have observed and learned from the Pinalito experience and started to copy some of the techniques, sometimes assisted by Pinalito residents. The health promoter, recruited by the Ministry of Health, is also helping to transfer the experience to neighbouring communities. At least two communities have come to visit to learn from the project.

    A National Network against Chagas disease has been formed, which aims to generate greater awareness and action. The initiative is also used as a model by the University of El Salvador to influence other municipalities.

    The project was awarded the “Helping those who help” prize by the Gloria de Kriete Foundation in 2011 and 2012. FUNDASAL was also asked to present the project experience at three events: the First National Chagas Conference in El Salvador, the Manos Unidas Forum in Cadiz, Spain and the Terra 2012 Conference in Lima, Peru. Replica projects have been formulated for two areas of the country and presented to the Inter-American Development Bank and the Vice Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

    The Research Centre of the University of El Salvador has shared knowledge from the project with other municipalities where there is a high rate of Chagas disease. As a result, the town of Tacachico has prepared a Chagas project. In addition, the community of Matapalos in Honduras has been trained and is currently implementing the intervention model.


    Why is it innovative?

    • The principal innovation by this project, in the context of El Salvador, is in preventing diseases such as Chagas by tackling underlying physical causes, especially poor housing alongside awareness raising, education and social action, where other approaches have been mainly medical or educational only. Structural improvements were based on ideas first tested by the PUCP in Peru, then locally adapted through research in collaboration with a university of El Salvador.
    • The use of mainly local materials in strengthening and improving houses.
    • A joined-up approach between communities, the NGOs, schools and government agencies of health and education.
    • Education across all groups in society, regardless of gender or age.
    • Alternative ways of creating sufficient tenure security to avoid evictions and enable home improvements.


    What is the environmental impact?

    The project mainly uses local materials including earth, wood, bamboo and thatch. This keeps the transport component – and related energy need – down. The building materials required are simple and predominantly recyclable. The project also recommends that bamboo is replanted to encourage sustainability.

    The compost toilets introduced are designed to save water and produce a source of fertiliser with secondary benefits. The stoves introduced reduce smoke in kitchens – a health benefit – and are more fuel-efficient than the stoves previously used. The project has also improved the means of waste disposal and protection of water resources such as springs.


    Is it financially sustainable?

    The project set out to define and prove a replicable model of tackling Chagas and other diseases. If it succeeds in doing so, no future funding will be needed for similar projects by FUNDASAL, though it may still want to raise funds to promote replication.

    The project was not primarily designed to generate local incomes. However, people’s assets in housing and services and therefore their wealth, have definitely increased. The emphasis on using local materials also keeps transport costs down, which saves money.The costs of home improvements are kept low by using mainly local materials and skills. By empowering residents in this way, better and safer housing, as well as related services, have become much more accessible.


    What is the social impact?

    The project has improved community engagement and strengthened the organisations representing local people (ADESCOs). This has led to inter-communal action on health. The educational aspects of the project have successfully brought about behavioural change.

    The most vulnerable and excluded were targeted for housing improvements and inclusion was actively promoted (for example the participation of women in social and construction processes; the education of all irrespective of gender and age; linkages and collaboration between Community Based Organisations and state agencies). A particular effort was made to reach young people, thus raising awareness and creating skills at an early age.



    • People lacked belief in institutions, because they had been let down twice by other agencies before. Thus, time was required to establish credibility and trust.
    • Agricultural and religious calendars are important to people, and the project had to adjust the timing of its activities to those.
    • Some people were not interested in the project because they already had good housing, or did not see its need. Many others were unaware of the presence and risks of Chagas and other diseases, and therefore taking action against those was not a priority to them. Thus, the project needed to spend time on raising awareness.
    • It was found that many households did not have secure tenure, preventing their participating; thanks to flexibility of the main donor, this was tackled, and at least some form of guarantee established to improve security.
    • The lessons of the project have been analysed and are being made available as an example for others to replicate; the project is aware, though, that local contexts differ, and the model offered therefore may have to be adapted to each situation.


    Lessons Learned

    • The project has helped to strengthen community cohesion; rather than acting individually, people now have learned to address problems as a community.
    • Households face several vulnerabilities, of which exposure to disease and natural disasters is one. But e.g. land tenure is also insecure and should be integrated in such projects from the onset.
    • The project could also have integrated medical interventions more closely, alongside the physical ones addressed by FUNDASAL. This would have required closer collaboration with other agencies charged with health issues.
    • It is essential to formulate any collaboration into formal agreements, to ensure their continuity.
    • The success of projects like this lies primarily in the capabilities it leaves with families to change their health behaviour and maintain their houses well, with some institutional support of permanent institutions like the health service.



    The established health committees extensively monitor families’ hygiene habits twice yearly, with FUNDASAL’s monitoring unit, thus establishing sources of contamination and any illnesses. In addition, the Health Service of Santa Ana carries out vector monitoring on bugs collected, and thus continues to maintain vector control. It is also undertaking a pre- and post-intervention evaluation of the FUNDASAL project in order to initiate a process of Chagas disease prevention. There have been two major hygiene surveys, of hundreds of families, showing a huge increase in awareness of Chagas disease and its causes and in hygiene behaviour, and reduction in presence of the bug. The project has been externally evaluated.



    Replica projects have been formulated for two areas of the country and presented to the Inter American Development Bank and the Vice Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. They are awaiting review and approval.

    Neighbouring communities have observed and learned from the Pinalito experience and started to copy some of the techniques, sometimes assisted by Pinalito residents. The health promoter, recruited by the Ministry of Health, is also helping to transfer the experience to neighbouring communities. At least two communities have come to visit to learn from the project.

    The project has become a model used by the Research Centre of the University of El Salvador to present to other municipalities with a high rate of Chagas disease. As a result, the town of Tacachico has prepared a Chagas project.

    The community of Matapalos in Honduras has been trained and is currently implementing the intervention model.