EARTH grad elected mayor of Nejapa, El Salvador

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: March 19th, 2018

The ballots were counted. The community of nearly 30,000 had voted. On March 4, Adolfo Rivas Barrios (’01, El Salvador) was named mayor of the municipality of Nejapa, in the department of San Salvador. He ran as part of the National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, or FMLN) party and will serve in the role through 2021.

The following is an excerpt of the interview we had with Adolfo a few days after the election.

What got you interested in politics?
I realized that within the political sphere, I could affect more change in the develop process, as well as contribute to fundamental issues such as food security and nutrition. In other words, I wanted to leave behind the role of spectator and start playing a leading role.

When did you join your political party?
I grew up in Nejapa, a pueblo affected by the war. After the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992, the FMLN began participating as a political party, pulling Nejapa out from obscurity and positioning it as a model of local development at the national and international levels.

Why mayor?
Life has been good to me. Apart from my studies at EARTH and later my master’s in the Regional Program for Central American Food and Nutritional Security (PRESANCA II, for its initials in Spanish) from the Secretary General of SICA, I determined it was time to put my achievements to use for my town’s development.

What were the central themes of your campaign?
I ran on the platform of food and nutritional security, with seven promises aimed at promoting the social, economic and environmental welfare of families in Nejapa. (You can read more about the seven tenets of his campaign in the imagen on the left.)

Adolfo’s “Nejapa Has a Future” campaign consisted of seven campaign promises:

  • 1. Production: We will work toward agricultural and industrial diversification and innovation, to guarantee more food and better incomes for the families of Nejapa.
  • 2. Environment: We will promote the population’s collective action for the protection and preservation of natural and hydraulic resources, especially the San Antonio River.
  • 3. Connectivity: We will improve roadways connecting rural communities within the municipality through preventative and corrective road maintenance as well as bridge construction.
  • 4. Women: We will create opportunities for a dignified life for both the urban and rural women of Nejapa through technical training and economic initiatives.
  • 5. Youth: We will empower young talent to elevate the name of Nejapa through their sports, art, culture and studies, to ensure they have a brighter future.
  • 6. Health: We will increase access to comprehensive health services for both the rural and urban populations of Nebaja through the promotion of health centers.
  • 7. Progress: We will move forward through resource management proposals from professionals in support of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (ODS).

How’d you take news that you’d won?
I accepted it with open arms and, at the same time, with the understanding of the great responsibility the people of Nejapa have entrusted to me. I am full of respect toward the other candidates and their respective parties, given that I will have to exercise my role within a pluralistic town council.

How did your interest in food security come about?
Even though it’s not a sexy issue or one of great political returns, it’s simple: It’s the foundation of development in communities – above all, in a region characterized by a population that is constantly growing, vulnerable to climate change and in increasing need of food.

Tell us a bit about your professional life post-graduation from EARTH.
I worked in the environmental unit of my municipality. I began in the Salvadorian government, working for the Agro-industrial Program of the National Agricultural and Forest Technology Center (CENTA, for its initials in Spanish). In 2011, I landed a full scholarship from PRESANCA II to earn my master’s. That, in turn, gave me the opportunity to work as a monitoring technician on international cooperation projects in Central America.

How was your time at EARTH?
Without a doubt, it was the best chapter of my life. Having lived in a multicultural environment full of learning opportunities, I learned how to make considered, information-based decisions. My alma mater not only instilled agricultural technical abilities in me. Rather, I also developed humanist beliefs and a socio-environmental conscience for a better world. 

Click the link to watch a video of Adolfo upon winning the election (in Spanish):