Severe Drought Impacts Farmland
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Severe Drought Impacts Farmland

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Eliza Galeana By Eliza Galeana | Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst - Mon, 10/23/2023 - 18:49

More than 500,000ha of farmland have been affected by drought in 2023, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER). Specialists suggest enhancing sustainable agriculture practices and investing in agricultural technology to enhance water efficiency in the countryside.

According to the Agricultural and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP), between January and September 2023, approximately 502,550.14ha of farmland were affected by drought. Out of this, only 36,607ha are dedicated to irrigated crops, while the remaining 465,943ha consist of rainfed farming parcels. The impact of this climate phenomenon is especially severe in Chihuahua, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas, where more than 70% of the land has experienced some level of drought. 

Juan Cortina, President, National Agricultural Council (CNA), recognized that this year has been the driest for Mexico's agricultural sector since 1957. "The primary sector has received the hardest hit. It appears that climate change is becoming a permanent reality, and we will have to adapt to higher temperatures and less water in the country. In this sense, the warning is clear and has already been sounded," he said. 

As for monetary loss, Cortina refrained from providing a specific figure but indicated that it amounts to billions of pesos throughout the country. Furthermore, he asserted that, beyond financial losses, this issue concerns the food security of the nation. “We have to be very responsible when it comes to this matter,” he stated. 

Cortina also emphasized that during the current administration, support programs for farmers were reduced. As a result, the president of the CNA called to review SADER’s budget, which this year is expected to reach MX$74.1 billion (US$4.08 billion). 

Juan Francisco Bustamante, President, Water in Mexico Association, highlighted that approximately 76% of the water in our country is allocated to agriculture, but its usage is far from efficient. He explained that the majority of crops in Mexico are rain-fed, where farmers rely on the natural rainfall patterns for planting. “It is worrying that in the sector that consumes the most water, only about 5% of its use follows a technology-driven process,” he said. 

Bustamante noted that in our country, 90% of irrigated lands use the flooding technique, which is much less effective than drip irrigation. He suggested a fundamental shift in water usage. Instead of concentrating efforts on large-scale rainwater collection projects like dams, he advocates for redirecting the focus toward local alternatives, such as moisture farms, which have the capability to extract water from the air, even in arid regions.

Francisco Gamboa, Academic at the School of Government and Economics, Universidad Panamericana, underscored the need to modernize public policies directed toward the modernization of the agricultural sector. Likewise, he emphasized the importance of promoting sustainable practices, such as conservation agriculture, encouraging water recycling and reuse, and providing training to producers in efficient irrigation methods.


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