Climate change threatens long term agricultural losses

Current trends in global climate change pose serious threats to the production of El Salvador's food staples of corn and beans, particularly in the eastern part of the country.   This was one of the conclusions of a study of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization presented at a meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) last week.

According to the FAO, the average temperature in El Salvador has increased 1.3 degrees centigrade in recent decades, more than the global average increase of 0.8 degrees.   Future projections see another increase of 2.6 degrees if current patterns are not changed.

Although short term forecasts are for an increase in rain, there could be a long term reduction in annual rainfall of as much as 11% and delays in the annual start of the rainy season.   This will mean continued stress on El Salvador's water resources.

The eastern part of the country will be the most severely impacted. The region already lies in what has been named the dry corridor of Central America.   According to one of the possible scenarios, bean harvests could decline by 98% in the department of La Unión, with smaller reductions of 39 % in Morazán and 25 % in San Miguel and Usulután.    There will be similar declines in the harvests of corn in this part of the region.    More than 370,000 subsistence farmers depend on agriculture in El Salvador.

El Salvador will be at the mercy of whether the industrialized countries in the world are able to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gasses.   In the meantime, assistance will be needed to help farmers adapt their traditional farming methods to the new weather patterns which are being established.