While El Salvador is not among the richest countries in the world, or even in Latin America, the country still has a thriving economy which is among the stable economies in the region. One of the indicators of the stability of the economy is its unemployment levels which stand at less than 7%, one of the lowest in Latin America. While the service industry is the largest contributor to the country’s GDP, the country also has its natural resources thanks to the country's thriving economy. Among the natural resources found in El Salvador include its arable land and its water bodies. The country also has significant quantities of mineral resources with some minerals such as gold and iron being the top export items for the country. However, the main natural resource of El Salvador is its geothermal energy sources, with the country being among the top-ten geothermal energy producing countries in the world.
Natural Resources of El Salvador
One of the main natural resources in the country is its geothermal energy. El Salvador is one of the largest producers of geothermal energy in the world, with its peers in the geothermal generation being Costa Rica and Iceland. The huge geothermal potential is not exclusive to El Salvador as its neighboring countries are also known for their geothermal energy. Central America lies in a region which has constant tectonic activity, where the North American, Caribbean, and Coco plates are constantly colliding. The result of these tectonic movements is volcanic activity from which geothermal energy is generated. The government of El Salvador realized the huge potential in its geothermal energy sources and invested (particularly since 1990) in tapping into geothermal energy as a way of generating electricity. As a result, the country ranks as the top geothermal generating countries in the world, and geothermal power is responsible for a quarter of El Salvador’s electricity. The country’s geothermal electricity production is estimated to be over 204 MW each year, and the geothermal energy sector is among the most successful sectors in the country’s economy.
However, experts believe that the current energy production in El Salvador from geothermal sources is way below the country’s potential. Some sources have it that the country is yet to utilize 600 MW of geothermal energy, a testament to its untapped potential. The government targets to have geothermal electricity accounting for at least 40% of the country’s total electricity production by 2020. Nonetheless, El Salvador remains a model country in geothermal energy production and has even received funding from the Inter-American Development Bank amounting to $2 million which is aimed at developing a geothermal training center in the country which will be used by the neighboring countries.
The Central American country is covered with vast tropical forests which are another natural resource for El Salvador. From the forests, the country obtains lumber of high quality which it uses in the domestic carpentry sector while also selling it to the international markets. The forests are also great sources of resins which are in high demand globally since they have a wide array of industrial applications. Some of the economically important trees found in the forests of El Salvador include balsa trees, mahogany, nispero, cedar, and laurel to name a few. However, the forests in the country are faced with the issue of illegal logging which threatens their existence. While the problem is not exclusive to El Salvador, its detrimental effects can be seen in the national economy.
Another important natural resource of the country is its arable land on which the country’s agriculture is practiced. Additionally, El Salvador’s climate is another factor which affects its agricultural industry with the country experiencing a tropical climate which is ideal for a wide array of crops. Crops such as cotton, corn, sugarcane, and coffee are cultivated on the country’s highlands while the coastal regions support the cultivation of coconuts. Coffee remains the country’s chief agricultural export item and dominates in the country’s agricultural industry. The arable land also supports cattle rearing which is another major agricultural activity in El Salvador and an important source of meat for the country’s residents. The country’s staple foods include rice, beans, eggs, meat, and corn tortillas which are predominantly produced within the country.
Despite having a huge agricultural industry which enjoys support from the government, the country still imports millions of tons in food items to meet its domestic demand. A significant portion of the food is sourced from the United States from where the country imports dairy products, vegetables, and non-alcoholic beverages among other agricultural items. The country’s violent past badly affected its agricultural industry, but El Salvador is slowly picking up the pieces and looks forward to making the best use of its arable land.
The Pacific Ocean is the major water body which borders the country and is the primary fishing site in the country. The marine waters of the world’s largest ocean neighboring the country’s coastline are among the richest in the region and are, resultantly, among the best fishing spots in Latin America. Being a country found in the earth’s tropics, El Salvador enjoys sunshine virtually every day of the year. Some of the popular catches in the country include tuna, dolphin, kingfish, and blue marlin. While the warm tropical weather allows for year-round fishing in the country’s coast, the peak months for fishing are between November and April which is also the dry season in the country. Most of the fish caught in El Salvador is consumed locally as fish is among the top sources of protein for the country’s inhabitants.
The biggest threat to the country’s economy and which affected many of its natural resources was Hurricane Mitch, which hit the country in 1998. The natural resource worst affected by this natural disaster was the country’s arable land which in turn had a devastating effect on the country’s agricultural industry. Crops worth millions of dollars were destroyed in the wake of the hurricane as well as the deaths of thousands of livestock.