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Lutheran World Relief responds to persistent drought in El Salvador and Honduras

June 26, 2019

Lutheran World Relief is responding to a crisis triggered by persistent drought conditions in the dry corridor of El Salvador and Honduras that has caused major crop losses, increased malnutrition and has been a key driver of migration from the region.

Prolonged drought combined with torrential rainstorms have destroyed more than half the corn and bean crops of farmers in Central America’s dry corridor, affecting as many as 2.2 million people and leaving about one million in need of immediate food assistance, according to a recent report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Program. This disaster comes in the wake of consecutive years of drought in the region, from 2014 to mid-2016.

“I’ve been managing disaster response & development projects in the Central American region for over 20 years, but I had never seen a situation as critical as that I observed in southwestern El Salvador during my first program monitoring trip in February,” says Ralph Merriam, Lutheran World Relief’s regional representative for Central America’s Northern Triangle.

“The effects of more than two years of very scarce rainfall, combined with over a decade of changing & less predictable rain patterns, have not only altered the landscape but also eroded what faith these folk had in their capacity to live off the land,” he says. “In a region with few alternative opportunities, many are now looking at migration as their surest way to survive.”

Lutheran World Relief is carrying out an emergency response in farm communities in eastern El Salvador and western Honduras seek to improve resilience to drought by installing rainwater collection systems and storage tanks to provide a source of water for drinking and for crop irrigation. Families will also receive drought-resistant seed and technical support in starting backyard gardens that will provide a steady supply of food, especially during the lean months between harvests when income is low or depleted.

The project will also work to strengthen and increase the capacity of local community disaster committees or brigades, which are often the first responders when emergencies occur. Lutheran World Relief is working with local partners Asociación de Desarrollo Comunitaria (ADESCO), the association of community development organizations in El Salvador, and the Mennonite Central Action Committee (CASM) in Honduras.