In an April 25 appeal for over 2 million people in Central America, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have requested $72 Million USD to provide food assistance.
The crisis in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua along what is called the “Central American Dry Corridor” has arisen due to prolonged drought followed by heavy rain that has destroyed more than half the crop of maize and soybeans; there are no food reserves.
“Subsistence farmers have started planting this month, many of them do not have food reserves and risk losing their crops again,” warned Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. (UNFAO press release)
The estimate of the Central American governments that over 2 million people have been affected has been validated by FAO and WFP in the fourth quarter of 2018, further confirming that there are 1.4 million people needing urgent intervention.
The requested funds are designated for restoring productive assets and diversifying sources of income with a view to strengthen resilience during future climate-related events.
The current crisis began in 2018 with the delay to the onset of the rainy season, with an estimate of 70 percent failure of the first harvest. The following heavy rain destroyed an estimated 50 percent of the second harvest. Once food reserves are depleted, farmers have restored to selling farm equipment in order to feed themselves. This leaves the following planting season in jeopardy.
To make matters worse, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) observed in February 2019 an El Niño phenomenon and forecast that it would last until October. This will have an effect on this year’s first growing cycle, making the already bad situation worse.
In addition to warning farmers of the on-coming El Niño, WFP and FAO are attempting to shift the planting to less water-dependent crops or to shorter growth cycle plants in order to adjust to the anticipated change in weather pattern.
“We have to improve the resilience of people living in the Dry Corridor. Reinforcing monitoring and early warning systems, and mitigating the impact of droughts and rains through agricultural best practices, increases the families’ resilience and adaptation to strengthen their livelihoods, thus preventing that climatic events compromise their food security and force them to migrate,” said Adoniram Sanches, FAO Regional Coordinator for Mesoamerica and Representative in Panama.
According to FAO and WFP, “more than 25 percent of the households surveyed do not have enough income to cover their basic food needs and eight percent of the families reported that they plan to migrate in response to this situation.”