In a normal year in El Salvador, the rainy season begins in May and comes to a climax in October, many times resulting in floods here in the Bajo Lempa, like the floods instigated by tropical storm 12-E last October. This year however, has been anything but normal.
May came, June came, and July came but the rain, for the most part, stayed away. Farmers watched helplessly as their cornfields, which rely on rainfall rather than irrigation systems, shriveled up and died. The question on everyone’s mind and the topic of most conversations was “when will the rains come?”
After the hot months of May, June, and July, the end to the drought finally came last week, as it began to rain again. Despite everyone’s relief to see the rain, it came too late for a majority of the corn crops in the country, which had already been lost to the drought. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle (MAG) estimates a total of 2.1 million quintals (1 quintal=100 pounds) of corn have been lost. MAG has already begun a replanting process, planning to replant 1.7 quintals as well as compensating the farmers for their losses.
One morning near the end of the drought, I sat eating tamales made of corn with some friends and co-workers, as one of them tried to make light of the situation. “Well,” she said as she took another bite of the tamale, “we might as well enjoy the little corn that survived!”
As I sit in the office, listening to the pounding rain on the aluminum roof, it’s a little hard for me to remember the severity of the drought that gripped El Salvador for three months, but the evidence is still very real for the many farmers who are now at a loss for what to do. Time, money, and food have all been lost, things that can be scarce here in the Bajo Lempa.
The drought is another example of the vulnerability of the Bajo Lempa, and of the extreme changes in climate that the population must face. Last year saw record flooding while this year brought drought- both of which brought destruction to the crops, among other things. In the words of Alfredo Hernandez, the mayor of Tecoluca, “The [Bajo Lempa] is one of the areas with the most difficulty in agricultural production because of natural disasters. If we look, last year the problem was flooding. Right now, the big problem is the drought.”