Article By: Anastasia Moloney
BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Honduras must develop a long term approach to combat the impact of drought exacerbated by climate change & put the poorest & most vulnerable at the center of government initiatives & funding, a U.N. special envoy said.
2 consecutive years of severe drought linked to El Nino – a warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface that causes hot & drier conditions – have decimated crops & battered subsistence farmers in the “dry corridor” running through Honduras. 1 in 4 in the country of 8 million people are affected by drought & are struggling to feed themselves, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
“The impacts are aggravated & exacerbated by climate change,” said Mary Robinson, U.N. special envoy for El Nino & climate change, by telephone from Honduras at the start of a visit to the Central American nation.
Honduras is highly vulnerable to extreme weather linked to climate change like hurricanes, floods & drought, while unequal access to land, deforestation & soil degradation has exacerbated the impact of El Nino on rural areas, experts say. The prolonged drought in Honduras has slashed bean & maize harvests by up to 90% in some areas, triggering higher food prices. This has worsened hunger among poor farming families who have resorted to cutting meals & caused many Hondurans to leave home in search of better prospects in the United States.
“We need to make it clear that people are bereft of their own resources & we are seeing malnutrition & acute malnutrition among children,” Robinson, a former Irish president, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It’s absolutely necessary to understand that this is the new normal.”
Around a quarter of all young children in Honduras aged between 6 months to 2.5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition, WFP figures show.
Robinson said the government should not do more to strengthen the ability of subsistence farmers to w/stand the longer dry spells, more frequent floods & hotter temperatures linked to climate change. She said this involves
“putting people at the center” of government policy to help those in poor rural communities, particularly children, hard-hit by the drought.
Women-led initiatives to boost agriculture that focus on managing water better, planting trees & diversifying crops is 1 way to boost resilience, she said.
“There is a need for a genuinely integrated approach that is objective & fair,” Robinson said.
Trust needs to be forged between communities & the government, Robinson said, noting that little support was given to small-scale farmers, while large amounts of government funds were spent on building dams & large-scale palm oil projects. The United Nations says a U.N. appeal for $44 million to provide food aid & water to 250,000 Hondurans in drought-stricken areas is a quarter-funded so far.
Drought has also hit hard other parts of Central America & in Haiti. The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization estimates that around 3.5 million people are struggling to feed themselves in Guatemala, El Salvador & Honduras, & of that number, 2.8 million are relying on food aid to survive.