Young people in El Salvador are shaping a green future

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Leticia Marroquín - El Salvador
All photos by: UNDP El Salvador

Located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Central America, El Salvador is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and more frequent and intense extreme weather events.

With 2023 being the hottest year recorded so far, the climate crisis is bound to continue challenging the country’s resilience. For example, in 2022, storm Julia damaged over 400 homes, destroyed 7,000 hectares of crops, and left an estimated 180,000 people without access to enough food.

However, young people in El Salvador know that indifference and inaction can be costly, or even deadly. They have the ability and driving force to identify, support and commit to climate action in order to protect the future of their communities. Through creative and innovative ideas and perspectives on how to live a sustainable and resilient life, they are shaping a green future for their country.

UNDP in El Salvador is helping raise awareness of the challenges posed by climate change and the solutions available to tackle it, while making sure everyone can make their voice heard. With a new campaign, it seeks to amplify the voices of young people who provide solutions and hope for the country.

Five young people shared their vision of the future and what motivated them to shift from indifference to action on climate change. They showed us that solutions are within reach, that every action counts, and that everyone has a role to play.


André Ciriani is a young father and considers that his most important legacy is to set an example for his small child.

“I start thinking, because I have a son, about the kind of world we are leaving behind for the next generation. What are we teaching them? We are their example.”

At the age of 20, he founded Bichos Boya, a company that manufactures balance boards, skateboards and surfboards. For each board they sell, they plant a native tree in the coastal area of La Libertad, near the capital of El Salvador, San Salvador.

Now 25, André tries to instill environmental awareness in everything he does. With Bichos Boya, he has inspired more young people to join and volunteer to reforest, clean mangroves and care about the environment in their communities.

“I believe in a better future, because we will focus on the education of the new generations. There is a growing awareness and people want to help. That is my great motivation.”
— André Ciriani



Jennifer Benavides uses plastic bags to create bricks that can be used as vertical supports to complement constructions. She draws inspiration and motivation from the youngest members of her family.

Jennifer’s hope is that more people join her in reusing materials, sharing information with others or finding other creative solutions to build a safer future.

“I am inspired by the new generations, because in the end they replicate what we do; our actions are important to them. I want my family, my niece or my little cousins, or maybe my future children, to live in a healthier country.”
— Jennifer Benavides


Caleb Padilla is a systems engineer who decided to focus his efforts on reforestation and raising awareness about the importance of protecting forests.

Growing up, Caleb developed a deep appreciation for nature, greatly influenced by his grandmother who taught him about the world of plants. In 2013, he witnessed one of the first floods in the historic center of his hometown, Santa Ana, which inspired him to take action for his city and the environment.

Now, at 35, he has dedicated all of his time to his foundation Un Pulmón Más (One More Lung), committed to reforestation. He also trains climate leaders, and motivates young people to help change the world.

“I want the next generations, my children, my grandchildren and the next generations to come, to consider themselves as a lung for the planet, to take responsibility for protecting the forests.”
— Caleb Padilla


Letty Marroquín is a 27-year-old environmental engineer who aims to raise awareness on how to live in harmony with nature. In 2020, she created The Eco Tea, a space where people can connect, have tea and discuss environmental issues.

The initiative quickly took off and has even expanded the scope of its environmental activities. “It isn’t just about preserving the environment, or preserving native species, animals, and so on. It’s also about how we can achieve a sustainable way of life, by taking environmental actions that can lead us to a better future as a society.”

Letty considers that it is only by being in contact with nature that people can be more aware and engaged with these issues.

“I truly believe that everyone can understand this topic if they start participating in the actions that are available. Everyone must get involved, so that, through experience, they know what they can do for the environment.”
— Leticia Marroquín


Daniel Mejia is an educator from San Salvador and an enthusiastic champion of recycling and circular economy. His goal is to shift the culture of waste to one that maximizes the use of resources.

“We all have this concept that everything we throw out is garbage, but if you start separating it, it becomes a resource. The idea is to promote waste separation, which is the basis of the circular economy. The country is small and, because it is small, we have to protect it a hundred times more.”

Daniel hopes to see household waste transformed into organic fertilizer to minimize pollution. He also plans to expand his climate action to involve children and adolescents as they are the future of the country.

This campaign asks us to recognize that the climate crisis already impacts our lives. That it is time to be responsible and take action, to motivate our friends, families and communities to do the same, and demand more action from leaders and decision makers. Young people have spurred a global movement on climate action, translating indifference to action by leading initiatives in their own countries and demanding bold climate measures from world leaders. It’s time to follow their lead, in El Salvador and everywhere else.

The campaign was developed under the Agenda NDC project, as part of the Climate Promise initiative in El Salvador. UNDP’s Climate Promise is the world’s largest offer of support to countries on national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement. These pledges, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), are crucial stepping stones towards net-zero emissions and meeting the Paris goals. The initiative supports over 120 countries, in collaboration with over 35 partners and is a major contribution to the NDC Partnership.