By Sean Hawkey
“There’s been no rain for months,” says cowboy Mikol Hernandez, “and it’s meant to be the rainy season but the rivers have dried up, the wells have dried up, the crops failed and the cattle are dying.
“We moved all the cattle we could up to pastures in El Cuá. We rented some fields up there. The cows were so thin that we couldn’t even sell them, so we moved them. Some didn’t last the journey and a lot of the cows we couldn’t move have died here.”
Across the region, rivers, lakes and lagoons have dried up along with many of the wells that people rely on for drinking water, cooking and washing. As people desperately dig to deepen their wells in search of water, aid agencies are preparing to deal with a major crisis of malnutrition across the region.
Guatemala has declared a state of emergency in 16 of its 22 provinces. Already, major crop losses have been reported – of the region’s staple foods of maize and beans – and emaciated cattle are dying for lack of food and water. Hundreds of thousands of families in the region are facing hunger and malnutrition as the stores of last years crops are finished.
“Most of the wells in San Francisco Libre are already dry,” says Arnulfo Espinoza “and the ones with some water have to serve the whole community now, and they’re drying up quickly too, so we’re deepening the best ones, hoping that they last a while.”
“The jicaro trees can survive a long drought but even they are dying. If this carries on, this whole area will be a desert. And the big employers near here, the rice farms, have sacked their employees, so there’s no income either. People are making ends meet by chopping down the remaining trees to sell firewood for Managua.”
Little water for people, even less for livestock
Salvador Pérez, technician with ACT member CEPAD (Consejo de Iglesias Evangélicas Pro-Alianza Denominacional – Council of Evangelical Churches) in Nicaragua, works with the communities in the badly-affected area of San Francisco Libre. “We are encouraging people to keep their cattle together, in one place. They die more quickly walking around searching for fodder. But there’s very little water for us, there’s no food or water for the cattle.”
“The Rio Grande has dried up, imagine that, it’s dried up. There are a few remaining puddles of water there, and for people nearby they can take their cattle to water there, but there’s no food, we’re shipping in rice husks for the cows to eat. There’s no government response yet, the government can’t make it rain.”
“At the end of this year, the last reserves that farmers have from the late harvest last year will be finished, scarcity of food has pushed up the food prices so people can’t afford to buy much food. The price of beans has shot up. We’re going to need a lot of humanitarian aid to keep people alive,” says Salvador. “There’s no food, no water, people are going to starve unless we do something.”
ACT members in Guatemala, where 170,000 families have lost all their crops, has issued this alert on the drought.
Photo: Mikol Antonio Hernández García, cowboy, inspects the dry carcasses of cattle that died in the drought in San Francisco Libre, Nicaragua in August 2014 (ACT Sean Hawkey)
Source: ACT Alliance: http://www.actalliance.org/stories/drought-causing-food-crisis-in-central-america
See also: Drought threatens food security: Up to 2.8 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are in risk of famine: http://www.lapress.org/articles.asp?art=7067
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