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Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK
Central America alarmed at crop failure
Drought scene
Drought is the scourge of rural communities
Newspapers in Central America bear stark witness to the food crisis facing the region as a combination of drought and flooding devastate vital crops.

From Guatemala in the north to Nicaragua in the south, the press is full of the hardships being suffered far and wide, particularly by the rural sector.

People are surviving on a diet of mango

La Prensa
Nicaragua

"Apocalyptic crisis", said Nicaragua's La Prensa, reporting the disaster facing peasant families in two zones about 240km (150 miles) from the capital, Managua.

Empty granaries

"In Totogalpa and Santa Maria, the people are surviving on a diet of mango," the daily says.

Over 90% of the staple crops of corn, beans and sorghum failed last year, "and it seems the story is about to repeated this year, as the lack of rain has withered most of the crops".

La Prensa said many people have appealed to the local authorities for help, "but they're told there isn't one single grain in the warehouses to give them".

One woman, Virginia Lopez Gonzalez, 50, says her husband "died of hunger" in March.
Flooding in Nicaragua
From one extreme to the other

"Don Jose was very malnourished, he only took tortillas and coffee, and when there was nothing, he went hungry, until his body became bloated and he died," Mrs Lopez told the newspaper.

Elsewhere in La Prensa, there are reports of death and destruction in the regions along the Atlantic coast caused by heavy rains and flooded rivers.

Marginalized

In neighbouring Honduras, according to Tiempo, published in the second city of San Pedro Sula, drought has hit badly.

It spoke of cases of "hunger in 57 municipalities in the country where the situation is considered extremely grave because of failures of basic crops".

We don't only need rain, but bank loans and education

Peasant leader in La Prensa
Honduras

Another San Pedro Sula daily, La Prensa, said the local drinking water company had warned that rationing of the precious liquid would be inevitable if the drought continued.

The daily also said the peasants were complaining they were doubly disadvantaged by being poor and marginalized.

One peasant leader said: "To make the land fertile, we don't only need rain, but bank loans and education so we don't waste what the land can provide us with."

Man-made

"It might be the so-called 'rainy season' in the tropics, but no precious water seems to be falling around Tegucigalpa," lamented the English-language Honduras This Week, which also pointed the finger at man-made problems.

"Experts say Los Laureles [reservoir] is dry not only due to the lack of rain, but also because of deforestation."

Guatemala's Prensa Libre quoted the agriculture ministry as saying the country will lose 47 thousand hectares of corn, beans and rice because of the drought.

However, there was a discrepancy between UN World Food Programme figures, which said rainfall was 60% below normal, and the national meteorological institute, which said rainfall was "normal".

The government would nevertheless consider authorizing the importation of basic grains should the need arise, Prensa Libre added.

In El Salvador, "the drought has destroyed most crops in the east of the country, dashing the hopes of the peasants for a better future. And the distressing situation could get worse", El Diario de Hoy reported.

"The climate, just as life, is often deceiving. A huge grey cloud hovers over the dying crops of La Union. Everything darkens. A fresh wind blows, bending the stunted corn stalks. But the happiness comes to nothing. It fails to rain."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

21 Jul 01 | Americas
Central America 'faces food crisis'
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