FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Adverse climate events in the Central American Dry Corridor leave 1.4 million people in need of urgent food assistance

2.2 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua lost their crops due to rains and droughts, of which 1.4 million need food assistance urgently. FAO and WFP request US $ 72 million from the international community to provide food assistance to more than 700 thousand people in the Dry Corridor.

April 25, 2019, Panama City - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned today that prolonged droughts and heavy rains destroyed more than half of the maize and bean crops of subsistence farmers in the Central American Dry Corridor, leaving them without food reserves and affecting their food security.

Central American governments stated that 2.2 million people have suffered crop losses, mainly because of the drought. An assessment of food security in emergencies conducted in the Dry Corridor by the FAO, the WFP and governments in the last quarter of 2018 found that 1.4 million of the 2.2 million people affected need urgent food assistance.

For 2019, FAO and WFP are asking the international community for US $ 72 million to provide food assistance to more than 700,000 people in the Dry Corridor.

These funds will also be used to create and rehabilitate productive assets, diversify farmers' sources of income, establish social protection systems and strengthen their resilience to the effects of climate.

“Subsistence farmers are starting to plant this month, many have no food reserves and are at risk of losing their crops again,” said Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “If we do not support them right now, the period of food shortages in the coming months could be particularly hard for them and especially for the most vulnerable, including children, with the consequent deterioration of their nutritional status.”

Central American governments reported that in 2018 a delay in rainfall in the Dry Corridor ruined up to 70% of the Primera (first crop) of subsistence farmers, while excess rainfall damaged up to 50% of the Postrera (second crop).

In mid-February 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States announced the appearance of the El Niño phenomenon, which is forecast to continue until October. There is a high probability that El Niño will affects the sowing of basic grains of the Primera, which would worsen the already fragile food and nutritional security of the communities in the Dry Corridor.

FAO and the WFP recommend informing farmers to take this into account so that their crops do not suffer the impacts of the delay in the rainy season, implementing measures such as replacing water demanding crops with sorghum, and tubers or planting short-cycle early varieties which can take root during the first rains in the drier areas.

“We must improve the resilience of the inhabitants of the Dry Corridor. To this end, surveillance and early warning systems must be strengthened. The effects of events such as droughts and heavy rainfall must be mitigated through good agricultural practices that increase the resilience and adaptation of families, strengthening their livelihoods and preventing these climate events from compromise their food security and forcing them to migrate,” said Adoniram Sanches, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Mesoamerica and Representative in Panama.

It is estimated that of the 1.9 million small producers of basic grains in Central America, half live in the Dry Corridor. These families are subsistence farmers, which means that they harvest and consume the food they sow (mainly corn and beans) and they hardly have the resources to face risks. If a crop fails, they do not have enough food reserves to eat, sell and survive until the next harvest.

Once their food reserves are exhausted, families resort to crisis survival strategies. According to FAO, WFP and the governments, up to 82% of the families living in the Dry Corridor have had to sell their agriculture tools and animals to buy food, and some also may skip meals or eat less nutritious foods.

More than 25% of the households surveyed do not have enough income to cover the cost of the basic food basket. On the other hand, 8% of families reported that they plan to migrate in response to this situation.

According to the FAO and the WFP, only by revitalizing the territories of the Dry Corridor can conditions be guaranteed for communities to improve their livelihoods without having to leave their countries and undertake risky trips to seek better opportunities.