deforestation, polluted water, depleted soils, changes in weather patterns, and more.
When people are able to grow enough food to feed their families, when they have enough clean water for drinking, hygiene, cooking and agricultural uses, when they are able to earn an income at home, they needn’t break up their families or risk their lives to find work elsewhere.
I recently had a conversation with FRB’s Alex Morse, who oversees our food security programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, about the severe food shortage affecting Central America from southern Mexico all the way down to Costa Rica. Rapidly changing climate, linked to both unprecedented drought and the coffee rust fungus that has wiped out livelihoods and economies, is contributing to a massive food crisis across the region.
The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) states that rainfall accumulation is 50 to 75 percent below average, and losses incurred by subsistence farmers in the worst-affected areas are expected to exceed 70%. A FEWSNET report on the region notes, “Atypically high levels of humanitarian assistance, possibly the highest since Hurricane Mitch in 1998, will likely be required [in early 2015] in order to avoid a food crisis.”
The media has reported that the recent spate of migration to the US from Central America is due to violence in the cities, but the consequences of drought and coffee-rust contribute to this humanitarian crisis as well. Many of the child refugees attempting to cross the border are from rural places.
In some communities in the most-affected areas in Honduras, nearly 90% of families have felt they needed to send someone to look for work elsewhere. Because the cities are so dangerous, migration to other countries in Central or North America is seen as the better option.
But FRB program staff throughout the region are telling us that those involved in FRB food security programs are not migrating to look for hope and opportunities elsewhere. Why? Because they can find them at home.
Despite drought and severe food shortages, FRB programs are alleviating the need to migrate. With training and support in working out agricultural solutions to their challenges, farm families are adapting to climate change and growing enough food to sustain themselves.
They are using conservation farming techniques like planting in holes to capture rainwater, cover crops to retain moisture, drip irrigation or recycled household gray water in their fields and gardens, improving soils by making organic compost, and diversifying their crops with a variety of grains, vegetables and fruits to protect them against the failure of a single crop. They are practicing small-animal husbandry, forming farmer cooperatives to market their excess produce for income, and women are starting small businesses.
In Boaco, Conquista, and other FRB programs in Nicaragua, unprecedented climate change has meant that farming techniques learned by program farmers 5 or 6 years ago are becoming obsolete. Yet because of the faithful support of FRB, weather patterns are being monitored, drought-resistant indigenous varieties are taking precedence over hybrids, and post-harvest management and storage techniques are helping farmers protect what they grow.Farmer-to-farmer exchanges encourage participants from various communities to learn from each other’s experiences.
Foods Resource Bank program communities all over the world, supported by our U.S. growing projects and implementing member organizations, are able to stay intact through developing resilience and creative adaptation in the face of ever-changing conditions.
If you are not already involved with FRB in this important work, come join us.