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“The Dry Corridor”: Climate Change And Migration North From Central America

“The Dry Corridor”: Climate Change and Migration North from Central America

The “Dry Corridor” of Central America extends from the southern Pacific coastal areas of Mexico through much of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and reaches as far south as the Pacific coast of Panama.

Beginning in 2004, more extreme cyclical El Nino events have led to progressively drier growing seasons through the Dry Corridor, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) documented a loss of harvests in the area of more than 50% in 2016, with even smaller harvests as small-scale farmers and laborers leaving the fields in large numbers.  The FAO report on the 2016 harvests in 2016 makes for stark reading – http://www.fao.org/3/a-br092e.pdf

This link between climate change and migration from Central America, as well as other nations hit by climate-driven shrinking harvests among small-scale farmers, is impossible to deny.

The FAO reports that today, “the Dry Corridor in Central America, in particular Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, is experiencing one of the worst droughts of the last ten years with over 3.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.” And in rural areas of Central America, even when that assistance is needed, it is rarely provided.

New Yorker writer Jonathan Blitzer reported a series of on-the-ground pieces from El Salvador beginning this April that capture the lived experience of climate change as a driver of immigration. He tells the story of Feliciano Perez, from the small agricultural settlement of Climentoro in the Guatemalan highlands. It was about six years ago that things started to change, Perez tells Blitzer.

Climentoro had always been poor. Residents depended on the few crops that could survive at an elevation of more than nine thousand feet, harvesting maize to feed their families and selling potatoes for a small profit. But, Pérez said, the changing climate was wiping out the region’s crops. “In the higher part of town, there have been more frosts than there used to be, and they kill an entire harvest in one fell swoop,” he said. “In the lower part of Climentoro, there’s been much less rain and new sorts of pests.” He added, “Farmers have been abandoning their land.”

In another hamlet, Agua Alegre, fresh water for cooking and drinking was only available from a small communal tap. Some sixty families lived in the houses nearby, and long lines formed as the women filled plastic jugs to carry away. Five years ago, when local authorities started rationing the supply, residents were told that they could draw water at any time they wanted, but only on certain days of the week during the summer; three years ago, the schedule was limited to specific hours on consecutive days. Now water is only available on Wednesdays and Saturdays, between the hours of three in the afternoon and five in the morning. A middle-aged widow called Doña Gloria told me that she made about fifty trips to the tap on each of the days that water was available. Another resident, Ilda Ramirez, told me, “This isn’t even the worst time of year. The worst months for water are March, April, and May,” which were still weeks away.

Jonathan Blitzer’s New Yorker articles are here –https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/how-climate-change-is-fuelling-the-us-border-crisis

The UN FAO 2019 Global Report on Food Crises is here – http://www.fsinplatform.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/GRFC%20UPDATE%20SEPT%202019%20FINAL.pdf

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