Record Drought in Costa Rica

Sept. 8, 2014, 10:41 a.m.

August 11th, 2014 (ISH) Central American agriculture ministers held a videoconference on August 7 to seek coordinated actions to cope with a major drought that has hit the region.

The drought has killed thousands of cattle, dried up crops and forced cities to ration electricity.

Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala have declared emergencies in the worst-affected areas to speed up aid delivery. El Salvador and Nicaragua have opened special funds to help farmers.

The current drought in Costa Rica is the worst in 75 years, according to the National Meteorological Institute (IMN).  Especially hard-hit is Costa Rican’s northern Guanacaste province.

Meanwhile, in northern Nicaragua, vultures are eating the carcasses of cows that are dropping dead in dried out pastures.

The lack of rain has been blamed on the probable arrival of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is characterized by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures that can trigger droughts.

The drought has swept across a region known as “the dry corridor,” which covers nearly a third of Central America, where 10 million people live, according to a 2013 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nicaragua’s government says the country is enduring its worst drought since 1976.

The first harvest, which takes place between May and August, has yielded nothing, according to Nicaragua’s national farmers and ranchers union. Some 2,500 cattle have died and 700,000 more are in critical health as they roam dry pastures.

Honduras’ rainy season is usually from May to November, but not this year. The drought has decimated 70 percent of corn crops and 45 percent of beans, affecting 72,000 families.

The Honduran state energy company said it was rationing power for up to four hours a day in several cities because of low water levels in dams that power hydro-electric plants.

El Salvador has lost one-tenth of its corn harvest. Guatemala estimates agricultural losses amount to US$45 million, affecting 120,000 families.

Costa Rica’s livestock and crop farmers have suffered losses totaling US$24 million.

Inside Costa Rica contributed to this report.

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