According to the UN Meteorological Organization WMO, there is an 80 percent probability that the El Niño effect will begin by September 2023. Agriculture being one of the main sectors of the economy, will be deeply affected. Engaging almost 70 percent of the population and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s GDP, agriculture is central to the rural and economic survival of Central America. Yet food insecurity, which is closely linked with poverty, is in decline due to climate change and recurring natural disasters. While drought is the main threat to food production, El Niño can also cause stronger hurricanes with torrential rains, floods, or in Central America, excessively hot weather, leading to outbreaks of animal and food-borne diseases, and an increase in pests, and forest fires.
The El Niño effect is a natural climatic pattern that is usually associated with an increase in temperature throughout the planet, as well as droughts in some regions and heavy rainfall in others, usually lasting from nine to 12 months, occurring an average of every two to seven years. The last one occurred in 2018, creating drought conditions in Central America.
”Most likely, El Niño’s development will trigger a new uptick in global warming and increase the chances of breaking temperature records.”’
Petteri Taaloa, Secretary General, WMO.
Effects of El Niño in Central America:
In western Nicaragua, and our communities Goyena and Troilo that are located there, the impacts of climate change are already being felt: Damage to crops from heat, strong wind and rain storms; cattle mortality due to heat, lack of water or drowning from flooding; damage to dry, sub-tropical forest ecosystems and lack of consistent rainwater; loss of farming income and decreased crop yields; increases in respiratory diseases.
Marlon Castellón, a farmer in our food security program from Goyena, talked about his experience:
“The effect of El Niño has brought drought and affects us in several ways. The pastures are food for the cattle. They dry up, or during planting, if it does not rain on time, the seeds die. I remember from 2018 to 2019, we also had the El Niño effect and saw how entire families lost their wheat and corn crops because it did not rain at all. A lot of cattle were moved to other places in the north of the country where there might be forage. People also went hungry because the price of vegetables rose dramatically”.
“The drought affects producers who will not plant right now due to lack of rain. In my case I have not planted because I look at the weather and it has not rained. Even though we have a well with enough water, if I begin irrigating our farm from the well using our gas powered pump now in July, there would be a point where the cost of gas would eliminate the profit from the production of corn, wheat and vegetables that we grow”.
By September we are prepared that our farmers will be struggling with the difficulties brought on by El Niño. Our Agroforestry program director Jorge Acosta is working on measures to minimize or help to cope with the drought: Drip irrigation, use of drought resistant seeds, and mulching, among others, will be the focus of our next training workshops. Oue chief concern is avoiding food shortages, and protecting vegetables and fruit crops that are critical for feeding rural families.
”The world should prepare for the development of El Niño, which is often associated with increased heat, drought or precipitation in different parts of the world, could bring respite from the drought in the Horn of Africa and other impacts related to La Niña, but it could also trigger extreme weather events.”
-Petteri Taalas – Secretary General of the WMO