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News > Latin America

Millions of Central American Farmers Suffer Severe Drought

  • Honduran farmers wait for food aid during last year's drought.

    Honduran farmers wait for food aid during last year's drought. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 July 2015

“We're facing an unprecedented calamity,” said a local official in Central American's dry corridor, hardest hit by the drought.

After months without rain, Central American agriculture is suffering and farmers are struggling against crop loss and hunger in the face of a severe drought battering the region.

Central American campesinos produce basic staple grains of corn, bean, and rice through the rainy season, sewing their seeds when the first rains come in the month of May. But this year many farmers have lost their crops, putting seeds in the ground only to have them dry up in drought.

“There is nothing to eat, the harvests are lost,” Honduran campesino Eleuterio Flores told AFP.

Flores is just one of 400,000 in Honduras and an estimated 2 million in total in the region who are hard-hit by the drought, brought on by a particularly strong El Nino effect this year.

Earlier this year, experts predicted major crop damage due to El Nino, a climatic phenomenon originating in the Pacific Ocean that can disrupt regular weather patterns and trigger floods, droughts, and other extreme conditions around the world.

“We lost the seed what we had, we're left with absolutely nothing,” said Flores, who has opted to gather firewood to sell for a pittance while waiting for much-needed rain in his parched fields.

RELATED: World Is Running Out of Water

Meanwhile, in neighboring Guatemala more than 300,000 families are feeling the impacts of the dry spell, and producers in El Salvador aren't faring any better, with more than 80 percent of farmer reporting they have suffered crop losses as the country sits on the brink of a national emergency. Costa Rica has already lost millions of dollars in agricultural production, and the Caribbean is facing the worst drought seen in years.

“2015, a difficult year for agriculture and ranching.”

“We're facing an unprecedented calamity,” Lindolfo Campos, mayor of the Honduran town of Texiguat where Flores lives and farms told AFP.

Campos said that between 80 and 100 people come on a daily basis to collect the solidarity package of basic food stuffs being distributed by the Texiguat municipality to help mitigate the devastating consequences of the drought.

RELATED: Latin America's Fight for a Just Climate Solution

Texiguat, where 80 percent of the 12,000 residents live in extreme poverty, is located in the geographical corridor of Central America stretching from Panama to Guatemala that is hardest hit by the drought. The dry corridor is home to some 1 million subsistence Central American farmers.

Though all are struggling, farmers in Central America using agroecological crop methods have built up some resistance to the devastating impacts of drought by diversifying crops, harvesting rainwater, and promoting good soil conditions by leaving slash-and-burn practices behind in favor of techniques that regenerate the soil without exacerbating drought.

“Emergency because of drought in Dominican Republic.”

“Food security for families is the number one priority,” Gabino Lopez, a Guatemalan agronomist who promotes farming methods that increase sustainability and resilience in the region told Christian Science Monitor. “And the key is water.”

Droughts threaten the already fragile food security in Central America, where 25 percent of the population suffer malnutrition, according to U.N. statistics.

The U.N. has also acknowledged that small scale sustainable agriculture is critical to feed the planet in the face of climate change.

RELATED: Latin America's Future Tied to Sustainable, Subsistence Farming

But it takes time to implement these techniques and reap the benefits. While the drought batters Central America, it also underlines the importance of more farmers adopting agroecological practices to build resilience and cultivate their own economic and food security.

“This isn’t something that creates change in one or two years. It takes time,” said Lopez. “But we are looking ahead, and we are hopeful.”

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