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El Niño plays with Nicaraguan food

El Niño plays with Nicaraguan food

By José Adán Silva

Scientists from the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (Ineter) link the situation with the El Niño / Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, which cyclically produces droughts on the western coast of the Pacific Ocean and in the center of the country. A situation that contrasts with the seasonal floods in the north and the eastern coast of the Caribbean Sea. Crescencio Polanco, a veteran agricultural producer from the rural municipality of Tipitapa, north of Managua, is one of thousands of victims of the weather event. I wait in vain for the abundant rains of May and June to sow grains and vegetables.

Polanco has lost his bean crop due to lack of rain, but that has not taken away his faith: he contracted a debt of about $ 400 to plant in September and try to recoup the lost investment with what he could not produce in May.

If the rains fail again, it will be an economic catastrophe for him and his family of seven.

“In the May crops we use the reais (money) that last year's harvest left us, but with this new loan we risk recovering what was lost or losing everything. I don't know what we would do if the water doesn't come, ”he told IPS. Their situation is no different from that of thousands of small producers who depend on the rains for their crops. About 45 kilometers south of Tipitapa, southwest of Managua, farmer Luis Leiva laments the total loss due to the drought of three hectares of corn and pipián (squash, squash) crops.

This farmer sells what he harvests at the popular Oriental Market in the capital and with the proceeds he buys grain to plant and feed his family. Now he has lost everything and cannot find financing to lease the plot and re-plant.

“Three sad rains have fallen, counted, and did not get to soak the earth. All is lost and the only thing left to do is to find what to do to see if I can plant at the end of August or in September, ”he said resignedly to IPS. Nicaragua registered an average decrease of 75 percent of rainfall during May. According to Ineter, there was "a historic reduction in rainfall," which in some areas of the central Pacific reached 88 percent, the highest since records are kept.

The Ineter warns with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States that the rainfall deficit could extend until September.

The farmers' nightmare is general in the Pacific Rim and in the center of the country. Sinforiano Cáceres, president of the National Federation of Cooperatives, which brings together some 300 large agricultural associations, exposed the fears of the union before the inter-institutional National Table for Risk Management.

"We have already lost the crops of the first cycle (May), if we lose those of the second cycle (August and September) we will have famine in the country and an upward spiral in all the products of the basic basket," he warned IPS during the forum of producers and specialists to promote solutions to the crisis. There is another third planting cycle, in December, called apante. The main producers of dairy and meat in the country expressed the same cry directly to the government. The members of the Federation of Livestock Associations and the National Livestock Commission told the government that milk and meat production has fallen by around 30 percent and could reach 50 percent in September if the ENSO is extended until then , as predicted by the Ineter. In addition, the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers revealed that more than a thousand cattle of its members have died due to lack of food.

They also warned that the price of meat and dairy products will rise because some farmers are investing in the acquisition of special foods, vitamins and vaccines against diseases to avoid more deaths in their herds.

The agricultural sector generates more than 60 percent of the country's exports and contributes 18 percent of the gross domestic product, which totaled 10,991 million dollars in 2013, according to the Central Bank of Nicaragua. For the sociologist Cirilo Otero, president of the non-governmental Center for Environmental Policy Initiatives, the risk of a food crisis would have a particularly serious economic impact for a country that has not yet recovered from the blow of the rust plague, which in the The last biennium affected coffee plantations in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America.

"Thousands of small coffee producers and thousands of families who used to make a living from this crop have still not been able to recover their jobs and income and now El Niño is falling, I don't know how the country can recover from this," he told IPS. According to Otero, if the ENSO does not change its behavior in the rest of the rainy season, thousands of families will suffer from undernourishment in a country that in 2012 had 20 percent of its population, of six million people, in a state of undernourishment, according to data from the Organization of Nations

United Nations for Food and Agriculture (FAO). “The producers do not know how to mitigate the effects of climate change and the mechanisms to adapt to the transformations of the soils. If the government does not implement policies to adapt to climate change, the food crisis will be severe in 2014 and 2015, ”he warned IPS.

The government established commissions to monitor the phenomenon, along with informative meetings with agricultural producers.

In addition, the authorities increased the free delivery of food packages to thousands of poor families, a school snack to more than a million children in the education system and a series of small financing programs for family farming.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega urgently ordered the importation of 20.5 million kilograms of beans and 73.5 million kilograms of white corn in June to alleviate the shortage already felt in local markets.

The government thus intends to lower the high prices of the product while keeping its fingers crossed awaiting the next harvest in the current semester. The price of red beans has doubled since May, to stand at two dollars a kilogram, in a country where more than 2.5 million people survive on less than two dollars a day, according to a 2013 survey by the International Foundation for the Global Economic Challenge.

IPS


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