Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Northeast Brazil reels from worst drought in 30 years

Terra Daily via AFP: The worst drought to hit Brazil's impoverished northeast in 30 years is wreaking havoc among thousands of local farmers, including small producers like Jose Holanda de Moraes who have lost entire harvests.

"Last year, I produced 800 kilograms (1,763 pounds) of cotton, 300 kilos of sesame and 400 kilos of black beans," said de Moraes, a 43-year-old farmer near Apodi in Rio Grande do Norte state. "This year I planted seeds but it did not rain and I lost everything," he told AFP.

De Moraes farms 19 hectares (47 acres) in the village of Moacir Lucena right in the heart of the semi-arid Sertao hinterland where less than 150 millimeters of rain fell in the first half of this year.

In 1999, the government confiscated some land in the area and redistributed it to landless peasants as part of an agrarian reform program. The Sertao, a region known as the "Drought Polygon," covers the northeastern states of Piaui, Ceara, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia. The area is covered by a distinctive scrubby vegetation consisting mainly of low thorny bushes adapted to the arid climate.

Over the past decades, the cyclical droughts have caused large-scale migrations to the Amazon basin and to the urban centers of southeastern Brazil. An estimated four million people have been affected by the current drought in a region where scant rains normally fall between February and April...

In northeastern Brazil, shot by Maria Hsu, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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