Drought, Not COVID-19, Biggest Threat to FarmersBy Jan Hogewoning | Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:29
In the agricultural industry, identified as an essential industry, harvesting and sowing have continued from March until now. There have been cases where supply chains have experienced challenges in terms of food distribution to sale points. However, situations such as letting crops wither away due to a lack of labor pool, as we have seen in the US, have not emerged. In the vast majority of cases, food has found its way to the final consumer. This has not meant, however, that farmers have not struggled. The shutdown of restaurants, in addition to a segment of the population feeling the pressure to save on food purchases, have led to issues such as product devaluation. In terms of exports, the last few months have recorded several new highs for a range of products, including beef exports to the US.
Now that people are slowly starting to look toward normalization, old problems are reemerging. Among the biggest are severe droughts. Multiple reports continue to surface about farmers facing a lack of irrigation water. One example is the community of Vincente Guerrero in Durango, where this week the director of rural development of the city council, Raul Chavarria, reported that farmers had lost several harvests. The reason, he stated, was that the local water reservoir had dried up. As a result, several parcels of bean land were lost and the community will most probably not be able to harvest corn or chili. The water reservoir is not just used by one community but many others in the surrounding area. Farmers have been forced to resort to small loans to move forward. As their income shrinks, they are literally “fighting to eat,” said one farmer affected by these droughts. The problems compound, as farmers are unable to purchase diesel for their tractors and possibly new seeds and fertilizer.
Droughts are increasing in Mexico. The year 2019, in particular, marked particularly bad droughts, which is still having an impact on water availability in several areas of the country. The country already has many areas which are classified as desert or semi-desert, with less than 600mm of rainfall a year. Lower levels of rainfall, the worst in 70 years, led to tens of thousands of acres of crops being lost last year, and the death of 450,000 livestock in arid areas. Annual temperature rises have also led to drier soil, according to reports by the Institute of Natural Resources (WRI). Citing climate change as a root cause amongst others, the institute issued an alarming report last November, threatening that water supply in different parts of the country, including Mexico City, was at grave risk. Urban areas are a major user of aquifer sources, underground water. Lack of rainfall has led to an overexploitation of aquifers, depleting water reserves and leading to lower water quality. One of the key problems is that only 15 percent of waste water is being reused across the country. Raúl Morales, President of the Mexican Geohydrological Association, has advised that infrastructure for reutilization should be an investment priority for the new government. In addition, better maintenance of water transport infrastructure can reduce the water wasted through leaks. These issues, however, will not put a stop to a changing climate that spells more trouble, a lot more trouble.