Sunday, November 25, 2018

Latin America and the Climate Change Challenge

1,000 officials, experts and civil society representatives who participated in the meeting agreed that the fall in agricultural yields and migration from the countryside in Latin America are visible consequences of global warming.

"This year we had a lengthy drought that destroyed about 80 percent of the basic grains of subsistence farmers, and two months later we saw tremendous flooding that affected 23,000 hectares in the south of the country,” Honduran deputy agriculture minister José Alberto Benítez told IPS. “We are the country most affected by climate change in the world. And when we see that thousands of young Hondurans have started migration caravans to Mexico or the United States, it’s largely because it’s increasingly difficult for them to stay in rural areas,” he added
FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué explained that “no country is safe from the impact of climate change on food production. In the south, Argentina had the worst drought in 50 years this year, after crops had been lost to flooding the previous year. And in the Caribbean, Dominica’s entire agricultural crop disappeared from the map in 2017 because of devastating hurricanes,” he said.
There are 59 million poor people in the countryside. Rural poverty from 2014 to 2016 it increased more than two percentage points and today it affects 48.6 percent of the rural population. Of that proportion, 22.5 percent live in extreme poverty. FAO’s Panorama of Rural Poverty reveals that rural workers in Latin America earn less than half of what urban workers earn. The average income of the former, in 2015, was 363 dollars a year, compared to 804 dollars for those working in towns and cities.  The result is that many flee the hardship of rural life. In Honduras, 76 percent of those who leave their places of origin leave behind rural municipalities. And the proportion stands at 70 percent in El Salvador and 61 percent in Guatemala.
There are 39 million hungry people, despite the fact that, according to FAO, Latin America and the Caribbean produce enough food not only for the region’s 646 million inhabitants but also for 169 million more. In addition, 294 million people (46 per cent of the population) suffer from some form of malnutrition.
Deissy Martínez Barón, coordinator of the Center for Research on Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), an institution based in Cali, Colombia said,  “Latin America and the Caribbean contribute 16 percent of world food exports. Potentially by 2050 that proportion could reach 30 percent
Lina Pohl, El Salvador’s environment and natural resources minister, warned that if ways are not found to increase agricultural yields, the future will bring higher prices, more hunger and social upheaval.  She said that “each country must find its own path, because technology transfer has not been successful, and there is no agenda for joint, integrated work,” despite the resources that the international community allocates to the issue of climate change.
El Salvador has been hit hard, since “all the groundwater monitoring networks show a tendency towards a reduction,” and global warming makes water even more necessary. “The best future scenario, of a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, will mean that maize crop productivity in El Salvador will fall 30 percent over the next 15 years,” she said.

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