Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Still not sure whether climate change is real? Come to Nicaragua


   
Without irrigation, small farmers in dry regions like
Terrabona, Nicaragua wouldn't have had any crops in the last 3 years.
A dry summer in Canada means our lawns turn brown. A dry summer in parts of Nicaragua means dead livestock and families on the edge pushed into full-on disaster. 

    It's been during these last four-plus years living and working here in Central America that I've gone from being passingly interested in the concept of climate change as a potential future threat, to being fully engaged and very alarmed by the impact that it's having right now in countries like this one, especially for farming families with few resources.
    A Cuso International delegation from Canada is in the country right now touring projects that Cuso supports through its volunteer placements. I went out on a field trip with some of the Canadian visitors this week to show them a project that my organization FEMUPROCAN has in the north with women’s farming cooperatives around Terrabona, Matagalpa.
    The region is in the fourth year of a devastating drought. In all of 2015, rain fell just twice. Not a drop has fallen yet this year. Desperate local farmers are counting down the days until mid-May, which is when the rainy season always used to start, and praying that this year it finally does.
    The trip into the village of Los Mangitos on Monday was almost apocalyptic in its dryness: Shades of brown in all directions, leafless trees, dust layered on everything. Here and there, groups of skinny cows and horses clustered around tiny bits of greenery that were the last remnants of anything edible in the arid landscape.
    The project we were visiting is a simple irrigation system installed three years ago with the financial and technical help of FEMUPROCAN, a federation of 73 women’s farming cooperatives in Nicaragua. (I do communications work for them as a Cuso cooperante.) The system pumps water from an underground aquifer to irrigate a 1.5-hectare plot owned by Ricarda Mairena and her family, transforming barren land into cool, green fields of tomatoes, corn and the pale, long-necked squash the Nicaraguans call pipian.
The aquifer is still producing, but the water level has fallen
dramatically after 3 years of drought. 
    And for three years, things have gone pretty well. Irrigation lets the family farm year-round rather than only during the brief three months of “winter,” the wet season. That has substantially boosted their food security and income, especially given that there hasn’t even been a real wet season since 2012. The commercial produce buyers that Nicaraguans know as intermediarios now pass through the village regularly, picking up produce from Ricarda to sell at the public market in Managua.
    But one more year without a wet season would be disastrous, says the family. They’re scared by how low the water level is in their well these days, and scared by the absence of pasture for their 5 cows. The animals are getting by on corn husks and spent tomato plants these days, at least until the sorghum is ready to be harvested.
    The 24 families that live around Ricarda’s farm are at least still getting drinking water from the municipality, once every day and a half. In a neighbouring village, no one has had water in their households for five months. The nearest community well is a kilometre away.
    A fellow Cuso volunteer in the north told me last week of families in one village outside of Esteli that are having to get by on deliveries of five litres of water every five days. Water for drinking, animal care, cleaning, bathing, cooking – all of it has to come out of those precious five litres.
    Nicaragua counts on small farmers to produce much of its food. But many women farmers associated with my organization aren’t even sure whether to plant anymore, as investing in seed or agreeing to rent farm land for what ultimately ends up being a failed crop can sink a family. Farming is a low-margin undertaking at the best of times, and a bit like tying a rock to your ankle and jumping into the sea in these years when the traditional rainy season can’t be counted on.
Producer Ricarda Mairena grows sorghum as a
"living barrier"at the edges of her gardens, both to
reduce pest invasions and produce feed for her 5 cows.
    These are desperate days, in other words. Down in the south, commercial banana plantations are dying for lack of water, with only the ones planted nearest to massive Lake Nicaragua able to survive. Water levels in the lake itself are significantly lower than usual, and the river that the lake drains into along the Costa Rican border is so low that local fishermen can’t get their boats out.
    In the municipality of Terrabona where Ricarda has her farm, locals believe that there are vast quantities of underground water waiting to be tapped into. FEMUPROCAN’s financial support for the bricks, mortar, pumps and large quantity of tubing and hoses that are essential to even the simplest irrigation system has been warmly received by women farmers because of that belief, and so far the wells that do exist are still producing.  Ricarda’s family is in the process of digging a second one.
    But even aquifers need to catch a break sometimes. The proliferation of heavily irrigated commercial tobacco-growing enterprises in the area make me wonder if anyone has studied how much underground water is actually available. Elsewhere in the country, treasured waterfalls in protected areas are drying up due to unregulated upstream water use and the lack of rain.
    An acquaintance from back in Canada commented to me a couple weeks ago that he still wasn’t sure “whether to believe all this climate-change stuff.” Any doubters, come on down. It’s real and scary in lands like this one, with so much more at stake than nice green lawns. 

Thanks for supporting our work in Central America with a donation to Cuso International. Here's our fundraising site. 

3 comments:

dallimamma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
plastik rögar kapağı said...

it’s very amazing. Thanks for it.

plastik rögar kapağı

opit said...

Despite the neverending misrepresentation, there is no question climate change is real. It always has been. What is not real is the sudden urge to blame man for change which we have always had because of the virtuous sentiment we are destroying our environment and will not survive because of our errant misuse and waste of nature. That does not mean a thing when asking the question ... Does burning fossil fuel warm the planet uncontrollably to our detriment. Answer : there is no proof this will be the case. The future has not happened. There can be no data. Next to your entry in my reader is this one : Incompetent Climate Science: Balancing Large, Opposing "Effects", All False
In the current insane atmosphere over supposed "global warming" -- due primarily to a long-nurtured, dogmatic incompetence in all the earth and life sciences, not just climate science http://theendofthemystery.blogspot.com/2016/04/incompetent-climate-science-balancing.html