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Findings from field visit to municipalities in the eastern Dry Corridor

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • August 2014
Findings from field visit to municipalities in the eastern Dry Corridor

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Key Messages
    • The extended canícula that commenced in late June had an effect on most of the departments in the country, with a particularly strong impact on municipalities located in the eastern Dry Corridor.

    • Field visits made by a FEWS NET team from August 5-8 to Dry Corridor municipalities in the departments of El Progreso, Santa Rosa, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Jalapa, and Jutiapa provided evidence that the lack of rainfall had led to a reduction of between 80 and 100 percent in the yields of maize and bean crops planted by subsistence farmers.

    • Crop losses will compromise the food security of subsistence households, due to the high level of dependence on their own production. The municipalities visited have been classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until October, after which income from day labor will partially alleviate the situation and lead to a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes until the Postrera harvest is completed in December.

    • The weather service forecast suggests an early end to the rainy season – some 15-20 days earlier than usual – projected to occur in mid-October in the Pacific watershed of Central America. This situation, combined with the lack of soil humidity, has the potential to affect Postrera crops in the Dry Corridor.

    Current Situation

    During the Primera crop season, the country’s eastern region is a deficit area in the production of maize, accounting for approximately 23 percent of the country’s production of Primera maize and only 13 percent of annual national production, according to Ministry of Agriculture estimates. Bean production in this area takes place primarily during the Postrera crop season, during which it is considered a surplus region.

    From August 5th through 8th, a FEWS NET team traveled to the Dry Corridor, which was most affected by the lack of rainfall. This Food Security Outlook Update presents the principal findings of the visit made to municipalities in El Progreso, Jalapa, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Jutiapa, and Santa Rosa departments.

    • Climate. Typically, a total of 35 to 45 days without rain is recorded during the Primera season. The most recent rainfall occurred between June 25th and 30th.
    • Crops. Based on observations made at the farms visited and data provided by departmental delegations of the Ministry of Agriculture (which at the time of the FEWS NET visit were processing data obtained from the damage survey conducted in all departments in the area), losses to maize crops are estimated at 80-100 percent. The lack of rainfall had the greatest impact during the stages involving development of the ear, hindering development of the kernels and leading to little or no yield. Bean crops for those farmers who planted beans in combination with maize (en asocio) were also affected during the same phenological phases, with damage occurring in sheath formation and filling.
    • Household food reserves. According to interviews with key informants, more than half of the population in the areas visited exhausted their reserves of maize some three months ago. Those who reported that they still had some reserves indicated that these will only be sufficient for November and December, since they had projected that by that time they would have brought in their new harvests.
    • Markets. Observational data indicates that markets have sufficient availability of both maize and beans. However, wholesale prices of both grains have increased substantially this month in the departments visited, including from week to week, as verified by the team in visits made to municipal markets. Recent reports of crop damage encouraged wholesalers to amass and stockpile these grains in order to increase their earnings with a continued increase in selling prices.
    • Income. During this period, and until the end of the Primera harvest in September, households obtain income locally, primarily from the sale of day labor involving land clearing, planting, and management of maize and bean crops. In these areas, the daily wage rate ranges from Q.30.00 to Q.35.00, and has not varied over the past two years. However, total income has been affected by crop damages, resulting in reduced availability of employment opportunities. As a result of these crop losses, farmers lack resources to hire additional laborers, and are accordingly forced to rely exclusively on family labor. Beginning in September and running through January, other sources of employment become available, involving crops such as cantaloupe and certain vegetables. However, these crops offer relatively few employment opportunities due to the degree of specialization involved, particularly in the case of cantaloupe. Coffee also represents an important source of employment and income, with the peak demand for labor occurring during the harvest, which begins between November and December. An increase in the sale of firewood has been reported, as the poorest households rely on this activity following losses affecting their maize crops and in view of the limited number of other income generating options.
    • Migration. Communities generally report little migration to search for work outside the area. Those who migrate travel to the south coast, Petén, and Izabal. No increase in migration to the United States is currently being reported.
    • Planting of Postrera crops. Normally in this region, primarily maize is planted during Primera and beans are the dominant crop planted during Postrera. Given the losses to Primera crops, this year farmers indicate that they plan to plant two crops together on the same plot of land (i.e., en asocio), either maize or sorghum planted together with beans. However, most of the farmers rent land, and some will be unable to plant for Postrera since land owners use dried up crops as cattle feed during the second rainy season.
    • Need for assistance. The farmers interviewed indicated a need to receive government support for short-cycle maize and bean seeds and fertilizer for replanting, to ensure food availability for the following months. Some farmers see sorghum as an option to at least ensure their ability to feed their families during these months, since sorghum requires less water than other grains. The government has declared a state of emergency in 17 affected departments, and will seek international cooperation in an effort to secure the resources it needs in order to address food insecurity for more than one million people in the country. Among the primary lines of action outlined in the response plan is the distribution of food aid by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Alimentos por Acciones program.

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    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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