Gilberto Gómez stands next to the cow he bought with the
support of his migrant children in the United States,which eases
the impact of the loss of his subsistence crops, in the village of
La Colmena, Candelaria de la Frontera municipality in western El
Salvador. This area forms part of the Central American Dry
Corridor, where increasing climate vulnerability is driving
migration of the rural population. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS
By Edgardo Ayala
CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)
As he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gomez laments that poor
harvests, due to excessive rain or drought, practically forced his
three children to leave the country and undertake the risky
journey, as undocumented migrants, to the United States.
Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of
Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western Salvadoran department of
The small hamlet is located in the so-called Dry Corridor of
Central America, a vast area that crosses much of the isthmus, but
whose extreme weather especially affects crops in Guatemala,
Honduras and El Salvador.
“They became disillusioned, seeing that almost every year we
lost a good part of our crops, and they decided they had to leave,
because they didn’t see how they could build a future here,”
Gómez told IPS, as he untied the cow’s hind legs after
He said that his eldest son, Santos Giovanni, for example, also
grew corn and beans on a plot of land the same size as his own,
“but sometimes he didn’t get anything, either because it rained
a lot, or because of drought.”
The year his children left, in 2015, Santos Giovanni lost
two-thirds of the crop to an unusually extreme drought.
“It’s impossible to go on like this,” lamented Gómez, who
says that of the 15 families in La Colmena, many have shrunk due to
migration because of problems similar to those of his son.
The Dry Corridor, particularly in these three nations, has
experienced the most severe droughts of the last 10 years, leaving
more than 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance,
a report by the
United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned as early as 2016.
Now Gómez’s daughter, Ana Elsa, 28, and his two sons, Santos
Giovanni, 31, and Luis Armando, 17, all live in Los Angeles,
“Sometimes they call us, and tell us they’re okay, that they
have jobs,” he said.
The case of the Gómez family illustrates the phenomenon of
migration and its link with climate change and its impact on
harvests, and thus on food insecurity among Central American
La Colmena, which lacks piped water and electricity, benefited a
few years ago from a project to harvest rainwater, which villagers
filter to drink, as well as reservoirs to water livestock.
However, their crops are still vulnerable to the onslaught of
heavy rains and increasingly unpredictable and intense
Domitila Reyes pulls corn cobs from a plantation in Ciudad
Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco, in
eastern El Salvador. The production of basic grains such as corn
and beans has been affected by climate change in large areas of the
country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS
In addition to the violence and poverty, climate change is the
third cause of the exodus of Central Americans, especially from
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the new
Atlas of Migration in Northern Central America.
The report, released Dec. 12 by the Economic Commission for Latin America
and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and FAO, underscores that the
majority of migrants from these three countries come from rural
Between 2000 and 2012, the report says, there was an increase of
nearly 59 percent in the number of people migrating from these
three countries, which make up the so-called Northern Triangle of
Central America. In Guatemala, 77 percent of the people living in
rural areas are poor, and in Honduras the proportion is 82
In recent months, waves of citizens from Honduras and El
Salvador have embarked on the long journey on foot to the United
States, with the idea that it would be safer if they travelled in
Travelling as an undocumented migrant to the United States
carries a series of risks: they can fall prey to criminal gangs,
especially when crossing Mexico, or dieon the long treks through
Another report published by FAO in December, Mesoamerica in
Transit, states that of the nearly 30 million international
migrants from Latin America, some four million come from the
Northern Triangle and another 11 million from Mexico.
The study adds that among the main factors driving migration in
El Salvador are poverty in the departments of Ahuachapán,
Cabañas, San Vicente and Sonsonate; environmental vulnerability in
Chalatenango, Cuscatlán, La Libertad and San Salvador; and soaring
violence in La Paz, Morazán and San Salvador.
And according to the report, Honduran migration is strongly
linked to the lack of opportunities, and to high levels of poverty
and violence in the northwest of the country and to environmental
vulnerability in the center-south.
With respect to Guatemala, the report indicates that although in
this country migration patterns are not so strongly linked to
specific characteristics of different territories, migration is
higher in municipalities where the percentage of the population
without secondary education is larger.
In Mexico, migration is linked to poverty in the south and
violence in the west, northwest and northeast, while environmental
vulnerability problems seem to be cross-cutting.
“The report shows a compelling and comprehensive view of the
phenomenon: the decision to migrate is the individual’s, but it
is conditioned by their surroundings,” Luiz Carlos Beduschi, FAO
Rural Development Officer, told IPS from Santiago, Chile, the U.N.
organisation’s regional headquarters.
He added that understanding what is happening in the field is
fundamental to understanding migratory dynamics as a whole.
The study, published Dec. 18, makes a “multicausal analysis;
the decision to stay or migrate is conditioned by a set of factors,
including climate, especially in the Dry Corridor of Central
America,” Beduschi said.
For the FAO expert, it is necessary to promote policies that
offer rural producers “better opportunities for them and their
families in their places of origin.”
It is a question, he said, “of guaranteeing that they have the
necessary conditions to freely decide whether to stay at home or to
migrate elsewhere,” and keeping rural areas from expelling the
local population as a result of poverty, violence, climate change
and lack of opportunities.
In the case of El Salvador, while there is government awareness
of the impacts of climate change on crops and the risk it poses to
food security, little has been done to promote public policies to
confront the phenomenon, activist Luis González told IPS.
“There are national plans and strategies to confront climate
change, to address the water issue, among other questions, but the
problem is implementation: it looks nice on paper, but little is
done, and much of this is due to lack of resources,” added
González, a member of the Roundtable for Food Sovereignty, a
conglomerate of social organisations fighting for this
Meanwhile, in La Colmena, Gómez has given his wife, Teodora,
the fresh milk they will use to make cheese.
They are happy that they have the cow, bought with the money
their daughter sent from Los Angeles, and they are hopeful that the
weather won’t spoil the coming harvest.
“With this cheese we earn enough for a small meal,” he
Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migrate
appeared first on Inter Press
Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migrate