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Without timely assistance, food security in the northwest will deteriorate

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • November 2012
Without timely assistance, food security in the northwest will deteriorate

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Status
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through March 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The earthquake that struck Guatemala on November 7 caused considerable damage to infrastructure in the areas of housing, water and sanitation, and production. The Government of Guatemala declared a State of Emergency in eight departments in the northern and southwestern regions of the country.

    • The timely delivery of food assistance to households affected by the earthquake is critical to avoid deterioration in food security conditions. The most affected municipalities in the altiplano are classified at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels for the Outlook period through March 2013.

    • Damage to productive infrastructure could lead to lower levels of income for the poorest households during the period that typically exhibits the greatest demand for unskilled labor. In addition, there may be fewer household options for addressing the issues of post-disaster recovery and the planting of primera crops in 2013.


    Current Status
    • The November 7 earthquake, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, affected more than 30,336 households in eight departments of the north and southwestern regions of the country. To date, reports indicate that 7,050 households with light damage; 8,586 households with moderate damage; and 6,558 households with severe damage and asset losses, who were relocated to official and informal shelters. The government, NGOs and individuals have provided food to those in shelters. However, the food coverage do not cover all those affected.
    • In addition, the earthquake caused damage to productive infrastructure (irrigation systems, drying coffee patios, greenhouses), as well as to water and sanitation systems. Some communities are reportedly without access to potable water. The extent of the damage will not be fully determined until completion of the assessments scheduled for the coming weeks.
    • Although the government has declared a State of Calamity for eight departments, those most affected are San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán and Sololá. The government has also indicated that it has allotted Q.1 billion for reconstruction efforts. In addition, several other organizations have responded with their own resources, and the United Nations plan to process a formal request for emergency (CERF) grant funds to deliver both food and nonfood assistance.
    • The sugar cane harvest has begun, but the demand for labor will not be fully stablished until the conclusion of the rainy season, which will facilitate access by the equipment necessary to transport cutted cane to local sugar mills.

    For the rest of the country, food security remains stable at present.


    Updated Assumptions

    In view of recent events, some of the assumptions used by FEWS NET to project the most likely scenario for the period from October 2012 through March 2013 have been modified as follows:

    • The El Niño phenomenon: Recent weather service reports point to a reduction in the likelihood that this phenomenon will materialize. This in turn should signify neutral conditions during the period covered by this outlook. Accordingly, no variances are projected with regard to the start of the rainy season in 2013.
    • Unskilled labor: Although the damage suffered by coffee crops, throughout almost the entire country, as a result of the coffee rust fungus led to losses of less than six percent, it will undoubtedly reduce the number of work days available for unskilled labor. In addition, the earthquake caused damage to the infrastructure required for post-harvest processing of this crop, which could result in delays of coffee bean harvesting. Coffee processing must take place shortly after the beans are harvested. In the absence of appropriate conditions for this process to happen, producers would find themselves forced either to delay the harvest in order to seek solutions for this problem or sell the coffee beans for processing in other, unaffected areas of the country. The latter option would either reduce the sale price or increase transportation costs. Some households affected by the earthquake could conceivably opt for avoiding to migrate in an effort to safeguard the few assets they were able to recover, a decision that would considerably reduce their income during the season providing the greatest availability of employment options.
    • Cold fronts and frosts: Although the assumption of a normal season remains in effect, damages to irrigation systems and greenhouses in the altiplano following the earthquake will reduce options for mitigating the damage that freezing temperatures could cause to vegetable crops, which in turn could lead to a decrease in the income generated by households located in surrounding areas. In addition, lower than normal temperatures could cause an increase in the incidence of respiratory illnesses in families whose housing was destroyed by the earthquake.

    Projected Outlook through March 2013
    • The postrera harvest is expected to take place in November, after which households in most of the country (with the exception of the altiplano) will have available grain to restock their reserves, as well as to generate income from grain sales. The start of the season for peak demand of labor, even in light of the problems described above, will have the effect of increasing the income of the poorest households, enabling them to purchase any foods not produced. The drop in income will be more apparent toward the end of the first quarter of 2013, intensifying early in the second quarter. The IPC Phase 1 food security classification will not change during the period covered by this outlook.
    • Elsewhere, in the north- and southwestern regions of the country, and particularly in the altiplano, the food security situation did change vis-à-vis projections made in the October outlook. Cash generated from day labor will reflect a decrease, while expenditures generated by earthquake-related damages will increase. In the event that the food aid scheduled to be made available by the central government and international organizations does indeed materialize, it would have the effect of partially offsetting the use of financial resources for nonfood assets. It has also been projected that a smaller percentage of basic grain crops has been affected by landslides. Harvest of these crops is expected to take place in late November. The municipalities most affected by the earthquake in this area are classified in IPC Phase 2, given that it is expected that affected households will use some unsustainable coping strategies to address food and/or recovery problems. 
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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