La FAO en Amérique latine et aux Caraïbes

Recovering, rehabilitating and transforming agricultural livelihoods to weather future shocks

FAO’s time-critical response in the Dry Corridor across El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is helping restore livelihoods affected by climate extremes, all the while anchoring in place the necessary capacities and systems to forecast and respond to future crises.

Foto: ©FAO/Eduardo Calix

17 November, New York – Across the stretch of land known as the Dry Corridor in the North of Central America, millions of predominantly agricultural households – many of them subsistence farmers – have been increasingly affected by prolonged drought, followed by short periods of torrential rains. Crops have been decimated, food reserves exhausted, and climate-induced migration seen as a last resort attempt at survival.

Agricultural productivity in the Dry Corridor is low, as is household resilience to the consequential impacts of climate change in the region. Income streams are overwhelmingly limited to the production of basic grains, and rural poverty levels speak volumes of how food insecurity and climate hazards are especially rural phenomena – 49 percent, 77 percent, and 82 percent of rural households are living in poverty in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, respectively.

This complex web of vulnerabilities in the Dry Corridor has already led millions to abandon their lands and migrate in the past few years, oftentimes under very precarious conditions. FAO has been providing life and livelihood-saving assistance, without losing sight of the long-term needs to build resilience and adaptive capacities to forecast, prepare for, and respond to future shocks.

Averting a food crisis today and forecasting risk to trigger early actions

FAO is working closely with partners to support farmers in the Dry Corridor, providing time-critical inputs to safeguard food security and harnessing the predictive and informative power of risk information and early warning systems. As such, FAO and partners are changing the way we respond to natural disasters, economic downturns, and other emergencies. Early warning systems can help trigger appropriate policy and humanitarian responses before food crises reach their peak

Acting before shocks hit, instead of after disaster unfolds, is a more cost-effective humanitarian approach. FAO’s response in the Dry Corridor is the crossroads of immediate food security assistance, time-sensitive protection and recovery of agricultural assets, and long-term diversification, innovation, and technification of agriculture – including through climate-smart agriculture – in a way that protects and restores degraded soils, forests, and water sources.

Turning the tide on climate extremes: towards a land of opportunities

FAO’s response to the multi-faceted hazards and needs in the Dry Corridor follows a programmatic approach, whereby 26 agricultural livelihood rehabilitation, resilience and sustainability, food and nutrition security, and poverty reduction and income generation projects are currently working in unison and hand-in-hand with rural communities, including youth and women organizations, under a greater umbrella of agricultural transformation.

This approach to rehabilitating, diversifying, and innovating rural and agricultural livelihoods is at the heart of efforts with partners striving to see the Dry Corridor as a land of untapped opportunities. From community-led risk insurance schemes to rainwater harvesting systems informed by climate risk monitoring systems, FAO is championing humanitarian assistance efforts that also prioritize a longer-term sustainability and transformational vision.

An upscaling of urgent support, however, is required to prevent a further deterioration of livelihoods, as Dry Corridor households are still reeling from the ripple effects of the pandemic and the unprecedented rains from Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020 that reduced crop fields. Staying true to its name, over half of all land in the Dry Corridor is likewise high to severely prone to drought.

The costs of (in)action

In El Salvador, 57 percent of households currently face reduced livelihoods due to the effects of Tropical Storm Amanda and Hurricanes Eta and Iota, and 841 000 are facing high acute food insecurity. FAO is seeking USD 9.2 million to support over 60 000 people who may otherwise engage in negative coping strategies, such as selling off vital assets or incurring debt to buy food.

As for Guatemala, the country hosts the highest prevalence of stunting in children under five in all of Latin America and the Caribbean – at 47%. With 2.5 million people at risk of facing high acute food insecurity through January 2022, it is vital to respond to the immediate food needs today while setting in motion long-term livelihood recovery. To reach 286 000 people, FAO needs USD 16.6 million through 2021 and 2022.

In Honduras, 3.3 million, or about one-third of the country’s population, is already facing high acute levels of food insecurity. Honduras also has the highest number in the region of internally displaced people, at 937 000. FAO seeks USD 12 million to support 160 000 people who are on the verge of desperation and may decide to migrate northward in very precarious and uncertain conditions.