FAO and WFP concerned about the impact of drought on the most vulnerable in Central America

Drought has led to the loss of some 280,000 hectares of beans and maize in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, affecting the food security of more than 2 million people

PANAMA CITY - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today expressed concern over the drought that has caused major crop losses in Central America.

The agencies also warned that the possible arrival of an El Niño before the end of 2018 could exacerbate the precarious food and nutrition security of vulnerable rural communities.

The months of June and July registered lower-than-average rainfall and drier-than-average conditions, which affected the first and principal crop cycle in Central America, known as the “primera”. Total or partial loss of crops means that subsistence farmers and their families will not have enough food to eat or sell in coming months.

Maize and beans, the main staple foods, have been the most affected crops by the drought, according to the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which have reported losses of 281,000 hectares of these crops, on which the food and nutrition security of much of their populations depend. These losses will increase the cost of these foods for the entire population.

The Honduran government declared the emergency in the Dry Corridor this month, where it is estimated that 82 percent of the maize and bean crops have been lost, while the government of El Salvador declared a red alert in July.

According to the International Research Institute/Climate Prediction Centre (IRI/CPC), there is a 60 percent chance of a new El Niño between September and December 2018.

The second crop cycle (known as the “postrera”), which usually makes up for the deficiencies of the first harvest, takes place in November. Even if El Niño turns out to be a weak one, it will have a significant impact on the outcome of the second harvest.

“Just when rural communities were recovering from the 2014 drought and the El Niño phenomenon of 2015 - the strongest recorded in recent history – a new drought is affecting the most vulnerable again,” said Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director for America and the Caribbean. “With the support of the international community, we have worked together with the governments and rural communities of the Dry Corridor to help them become more resilient to extreme climatic variations, but we need to redouble our efforts and reach more rural communities.”

After what happened in 2014 and 2015, WFP, with support from the international community, has provided food assistance to thousands of people in vulnerable communities of the Dry Corridor, to improve food security and strengthen resilience at family, community and institutional level. These activities included the conservation of soil and water, better agricultural practices and training to deal with natural disasters, as well as the strengthening of monitoring systems for food and nutrition security.

“It is urgent to improve the climate resilience of the inhabitants of Central America, especially in areas such as the Dry Corridor. We are particularly concerned about the effect of this new drought on migration, in an international context that restricts the movement of thousands of people who, in their localities, will have great difficulty in securing the livelihood of their families,” said the FAO Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué.

FAO has developed the Disaster Risk Programme to strengthen resilience in the Dry Corridor in Central America and has worked with partners to increase the resilience of households, communities and institutions to mitigate those factors affecting food and nutrition security. It is currently supporting countries to create large-scale projects and programmes to present to the Green Climate Fund.

FAO and WFP, in close collaboration with governments and partners, now plan to:

  • Analyse the impact of the 2018 agricultural cycles on the price of staple foods,
  • Evaluate the food and nutritional security of the communities in the Dry Corridor once the first harvest is completed and the second harvest begins, and
  • Support governments in setting up systems to monitor the situation of agricultural production and food security.
  • Reach agreements that allow the regulated, safe and orderly temporary migration of people from the rural communities most affected by the drought.
  • Mobilize resources to scale rainwater harvesting and storage systems to reduce the impact of future droughts.

About the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO has been working for more than 70 years to end hunger in the world. Its objective is to achieve food security for all, and guarantee them regular access to sufficient and good quality food to lead an active and healthy life. With more than 194 member states, FAO works in more than 130 countries. @FAOAmericas www.fao.org/americas

About the World Food Programme
The United Nations World Food Programme saves lives in emergencies and changes the lives of millions of people through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding populations affected by conflicts and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future. @WFP_ES
www.es.wfp.org

For more information, contact:

FAO Benjamin Labatut, Tel. (+56) 229 232 174, benjamin.labatut@fao.org, Santiago, Chile WFP Elio Rujano, Tel. + 507 3173900, elio.rujano@wfp.org, Panama City, Panama