Drought in Central America: overcoming the effects of a silent enemy

Four years of drought and the emergence of El Niño in Central America have affected food production and the incomes of small producers, a sector vulnerable to poverty

Deyra Caballero
Apr 26, 2018 · 4 min read
Smallholder farmers have been hard hit by the prolonged drought in Central America’s Dry Corridor. Photo: WFP/Julio Gómez

In Central America’s Dry Corridor, deforestation, erosion and inadequate agricultural practices have resulted in the decline of food security. Those affected have resorted to survival mechanisms such as selling their tools, livestock and land. The lack of income has pushed thousands of people to migrate within their countries or outside.

The growing season between May and August is the hardest time of the year for rural communities: entire families struggle to collect and buy enough food for their own consumption and to sell at local markets.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is working with governments and the European Union to reach the largest number of people affected by prolonged drought. The aim is to increase household agricultural production, diversify sources of income, teach new production techniques and ensure families can access social protection networks.

Dexi Marina Claro, a 48-year-old single mother, is from the Mázala community in El Salvador. She is taking up the challenge of strengthening food security for herself and her loved ones by participating in a project called Responding to “El Niño” phenomenon in the Dry Corridor of Central America, which has the financial support of the European Union.

“I like to participate in projects, to learn something new and look for ways to help the community,” says Dexi, who has been actively involved in the Project since February 2017. On her plot, she has fruit trees and forest trees, soil and water conservation works and an irrigation system for her vegetable garden.

Left: Dexi works on the individual barrier of one of her fruit trees on her plot. The barrier prevents soil erosion and the washing away of fertilizer. Right: Dexi works in the community garden that contributes to improving the diet of participating families. Photo: WFP/ Osiel Hernández

This initiative has allowed her to meet people inside and outside her community — men and women committed to the development of their lands — and learn new techniques from them. “I’ve enjoyed organizing people for teamwork and we even shared food while working”, she comments.

Dexi took on the challenge of creating a communal nursery and a community compost site. At the top of her list of projects is the the construction of a reservoir to store water, which will be used to irrigate the crops.

Dora Esperanza Ramos walks through her family garden. Photo: WFP/Lena Schubmann

Dora Esperanza Ramos and her husband have three children and live in the community of El Jute, Guatemala. Together with other families, they participated in different activities under the project.

At home, she has close to 20 hens and ducks that she keeps safe thanks to the chicken coops and poultry vaccination plan. Her garden was equipped with an irrigation system which has allowed her to successfully plant fruit trees such as avocados, chicos, sapodillas, guavas and mangoes. The organic manure that she produces with the compost collector she built helps her to fertilize the soil.

“I feel very grateful because our nutrition has improved. We have access to fruits and vegetables we did not eat before because they were very expensive or we could not find them in the community. Going down to the market in Huité for us is very costly and takes a lot of time,” she says.

Left: Dora learns to keep her chickens safe and healthy with the appropriate equipment and vaccines. Left: Dora built an organic compost container to maintain her garden. Photos: WFP/Lena Schubmann

The most valuable thing for her is how much she has grown on a personal level. She has become part of the Committee of the Local Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (COLRED) and the Community Commission on Food and Nutritional Security (COCOSAN).

“I am very happy to be part of these groups because I can contribute to the development of my community. This has also helped me not to feel shy or less capable because I am a woman,” says Dora.

Additional reporting: Haydee Paguaga and Irina Ruano

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme