Drought in Guatemala

Genaro Lopez and his wife Amalia live in Jocotán, in Guatemala’s drought-stricken ‘dry corridor’. The couple have six children, and during the drought in 2008 they feared they would run out of food.

Unfortunately, this kind of acute crisis is not a one-off phenomenon in Jocotán. It happens every few years, and we’re focusing on helping families find ways to adapt to these increasingly frequent extreme climatic variations.

The family grow corn, beans and pumpkins but have lost most of their harvest to drought. ‘I’ve lost most of the crops, and also the money I spent on fertilizers, which didn’t help at all,’ Genaro explains. Genaro has sowed a second bean harvest, but since he planted, there has been no rain at all. So he expects this harvest to fail too.

Genaro’s father, Eusebio, explains that the rainfall patterns here started changing at least 30 years ago, and believes that the changing climate is linked to deforestation: ‘The rain started to decline 30 years ago…we had fewer and fewer trees.’

Genaro and Amalia earn a little extra from making and selling palm leaf rings, used to decorate the bottles of Guatemala’s most famous and expensive rum export, Ron Zacapa. A bottle of Ron Zacapa sells for about $30. Genaro and Amalia are paid 37 cents for each ornamental palm ring they produce.

This is tricky, time-consuming work and Genaro and Amalia now face a difficult choice: the more rings they make, the more they can earn to buy food to survive the crisis – but the less time they have to work their own land.