A man crosses the reservoir of Las Canoas, 60 km from Managua, on July 30, 2014
A man crosses the reservoir of Las Canoas, 60 km from Managua, on July 30, 2014

CENTRAL AMERICA NEWS –  Central American agriculture ministers held a videoconference on August 7 to seek coordinated actions to cope with a major drought that has hit the region.  The drought has killed thousands of cattle, dried up crops and forced cities to ration electricity.

Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala have declared emergencies in the worst-affected areas to speed up aid delivery. El Salvador and Nicaragua have opened special funds to help farmers.

In northern Nicaragua, vultures are eating the carcasses of cows that are dropping dead in dried out pastures.

The lack of rain has been blamed on the probable arrival of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is characterized by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures that can trigger droughts.

The drought has swept across a region known as “the dry corridor,” which covers nearly a third of Central America, where 10 million people live, according to a 2013 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nicaragua’s government says the country is enduring its worst drought since 1976.

The first harvest, which takes place between May and August, has yielded nothing, according to Nicaragua’s national farmers and ranchers union. Some 2,500 cattle have died and 700,000 more are in critical health as they roam dry pastures.

Honduras’ rainy season is usually from May to November, but not this year. The drought has decimated 70 percent of corn crops and 45 percent of beans, affecting 72,000 families.

The Honduran state energy company said it was rationing power for up to four hours a day in several cities because of low water levels in dams that power hydro-electric plants.

Women walk to collect water after a tanker filled containers in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa on August 7, 2014 Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-drought-central-america-crops-cattle.html#jCp
Women walk to collect water after a tanker filled containers in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa on August 7, 2014

El Salvador has lost one-tenth of its corn harvest. Guatemala estimates agricultural losses amount to US$45 million, affecting 120,000 families.

Costa Rica’s livestock and crop farmers have suffered losses totaling US$24 million.

The water scarcity has even reached Colombia, where the cattle ranchers’ federation found 30,000 dead livestock.

El Niño, which occurs every two to seven years, has clobbered Central America 10 times in the past 60 years.

What we are seeing is the consequence of El Niño,” Luis Fernando Alvarado, researcher at Costa Rica’s Meteorological Institute, told AFP.

Other experts blame deforestation.

No water, no life
The drought has swept across a region known as “the dry corridor,” which covers nearly a third of Central America, where 10 million people live, according to a 2013 study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nicaragua’s government says the country is enduring its worst drought since 1976.

The first harvest, which takes place between May and August, has yielded nothing, according to Nicaragua’s national farmers and ranchers union. Some 2,500 cattle have died and 700,000 more are in critical health as they roam dry pastures.

Honduras’ rainy season is usually from May to November, but not this year. The drought has decimated 70 percent of corn crops and 45 percent of beans, affecting 72,000 families.

To cope with loss of crops, governments have imported US and Mexican corn and beans from Ethiopia. Nicaragua has approved a $300,000 fund to feed cattle while Honduras has sent food to 30,000 families.

Roman, the Boaco farmer, said he would emigrate to Costa Rica or Panama in the coming months to find work there if the rain doesn’t come.

Some 2,000 people live in the surrounding communities, where they used to have enough water to bathe, clean clothes and hydrate their animals.

“If there’s no water, there’s no life,” Roman said.

Sources: [AFP (Costa Rica); El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua); La Prensa (Honduras); El Espectador (Colombia); Prensa Libre (Guatemala); Siglo 21 (Guatemala)