Drought threatens food security of more than 150,000 families in Central America
develop strategies for long-term assistance in the coming months.
"With the loss of this year's crop, many farmers are forced to eat grains that had been set aside for use as seed to be planted for the next growing season," said Phil Gelman, Catholic Relief Services Emergency Technical Advisor for Latin America. "At the same time, many migrant agricultural workers are going hungry now because there is no work. No jobs means no income, and no income means no purchasing power."
Drought conditions have come at a particularly bad time as the region has already been suffering from a decline of international coffee prices by 25 - 40 percent since October 2000. This has meant fewer jobs and lower wages for migrant workers who rely on employment opportunities related to coffee cultivation.
Virtually no rain has fallen in Central America during the summer months. While the drought has affected families throughout the region, including in Guatemala, the hardest hit areas are in the lowlands of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. An estimated 20,000 families in El Salvador have reported that 100 percent of their crops have been lost, and more than 55,000 families in Honduras and Nicaragua have reported losing 30 - 100 percent of crops.
Because a large proportion of the region
affected by the drought are those populated almost exclusively by small
subsistence farmers, the overall production loss figures mask the impact
of the drought on more than 150,000 families. Subsistence farmers have
little savings or other means of employment to support themselves during
periods of natural disaster, such as drought. Many families have resorted
to selling their farming tools as an immediate source of
income, which will inhibit their ability to plant successfully in the next season.
In addition to providing immediate food aid, Catholic Relief Services is putting together a project that will provide capital in the form of seeds and credit to farmers affected by the drought, to prepare for the next growing season.
"The seed distribution is extremely time-sensitive," Gelman said. "If planting is too late, there will not be enough time, assuming the region receives adequate rainfall, for crops to mature." CRS will ensure that the farmers in the region receive seeds in enough time to guarantee a successful second harvest.
Catholic Relief Services staffs in all four countries are coordinating their emergency responses to serve those most in need throughout the region. The agency is also working with the international donor community, government emergency and agricultural authorities and a network of local Caritas partners in the four countries to facilitate and support the relief process.
Catholic Relief Services has worked in Central America for nearly 40 years. The agency has supported numerous projects aimed at assisting the poor in Central America by improving their living conditions. In addition, CRS continues to provide assistance and rehabilitation to the countries affected by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and the recent earthquakes in El Salvador and Peru.