Saturday, June 26, 2010

Storms impact food availability

Storms which have brought torrential rains and flooding often wipe out food crops, while too little rain has the same effect. A recent IPS article highlights the vulnerability to weather events of local production of food in El Salvador:

In September and October of that year, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon led to a shortage in rainfall throughout Central America, which negatively affected the planting of grain and bean crops in areas of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the FAO report.

Then, in November, Hurricane Ida struck Central America, causing severe damage to agricultural infrastructure in parts of the region. In El Salvador, heavy rains left 198 people dead and 15,000 homeless, in addition to 239 million dollars in losses and damages.

"All of my efforts were destroyed. Only a small part of my corn crop was saved," Isidro Rivas, 48, a farmer in the village of Izcanal, 45 kilometres east of San Salvador, told IPS. The torrential rains unleashed by Hurricane Ida flooded his three hectares of corn, sorghum, pepper and papaya crops.

El Salvador and Guatemala were battered by the force of nature once again in late May, this time by the passage of Tropical Storm Agatha. Losses in the agricultural sector have been estimated at six million dollars in El Salvador, according to official figures. However, the full economic impact of the storm has yet to be calculated, although it will be massive, stated Alexander Segovia, the technical secretary to the president of El Salvador.

"Whether it is flooding or drought, extreme weather conditions always hurt agricultural yields, especially since approximately 60 percent of grain crops in El Salvador are grown on hillsides," Edgar Cruz of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) told IPS.

With a tropical storm season expected to be more active than usual in 2010, food security in El Salvador is under continued threat. Perhaps some day, micro-insurance will offer a way for small farmers to hedge against weather risks.

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