Friday, August 8, 2014

Drought hits Central America's crops, cattle

Terra Daily via AFP: ... Nicaragua and the rest of Central America has been hit by a major drought that 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.

Central American agriculture ministers held a videoconference on Wednesday to seek coordinated actions to cope with the drought. The lack of rain has been blamed on the probable arrival of the El Nino weather phenomenon, which is characterized by unusually warm Pacific ocean temperatures that can trigger droughts.

It is the latest trouble to hammer a region already beset by gang violence and poverty, which have driven families and unaccompanied children to migrate illegally to the United States. 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.

...El Nino, 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 Nino," Luis Fernando Alvarado, researcher at Costa Rica's Meteorological Institute, told AFP...

Picture by Neil Palmer CIAT. Irrigation of food crops during the dry season in drought-affected Nicaragua, made possible by the use of special reservoirs to capture and store excess rainwater during the country's rainy season. Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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