Skip to main content

Poor households in the Dry Corridor engage in coping strategies to reduce consumption gaps

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • February 2019
Poor households in the Dry Corridor engage in coping strategies to reduce consumption gaps

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The high seasonal demand for agricultural workers has significantly improved the poorest households’ access to food. Households that suffered crop losses and that will have to rely on market purchases for longer than usual will resort to coping strategies to cover their consumption gap, leading to Crisis (IPC, Phase 3) outcomes. 

    • During the lean season, malnutrition levels typically increase. This situation could be exacerbated this year, due to the difficult food security situation of families in recent months, who have little to no basic grains from their own harvests and are rapidly depleting the income from daily wages saved from previous months and are changing their basic diets.

    • Low coffee prices on the international market have deteriorated the situation of small and medium-sized farmers who significantly invested in their plantations to control leaf rust. Income from grain sales has left them unable to recover these investments, which is putting the proper management of crops for the next production season at risk. 

    • The climatic conditions originated by El Niño conditions – which have been categorized as “weak” – could cause irregularities in the first rainy season, including above-average temperatures, which could negatively impact the upcoming production cycle expected to start between March and May, provided that sufficient rainfall is accumulated to start planting.


    Current situation

    Due to a prolonged dry spell, subsistence households in Guatemala’s eastern and western Dry Corridor suffered significant impact for their 2018 Primera production. More than half of maize and bean crops that household’s had planned for their consumption needs were lost, leading them to depend on market purchases months earlier than usual, which has prompted a premature start to the lean season. Households in the western highlands lost harvests of their only production cycle of the year.  Western subsistence households are typically able to carry out a second cycle of basic grain production. However, their harvests yielded average results, as resources aimed at securing the next planting process were used to purchase basic food in order to mitigate the impact of Primera losses.

    Poor households have maintained their minimum stocks of basic grains throughout the year, depending on market purchases to cover their basic food needs. In the months leading up to the Primera harvest, populations in the Dry Corridor reported that they had reduced the quantity and variety of their daily food consumption, and adopted coping strategies to cover their consumption shortfall, such as using loans and savings or selling more livestock.

    However, thanks to the high demand for agricultural labor, such as coffee, sugar cane, cardamom, fruit and vegetable harvesting, households have managed to increase their income, reduce their use of coping strategies and temporarily improve their food purchasing power.

    Basic grain prices have remained near average. The increase in the supply of maize and beans from the Northern Transversal Strip and southern Petén on the markets will lead to slightly decreased seasonal prices until March/April.

    The high seasonal demand for labor is peaking, with coffee and sugar cane harvests coming to an end and labor demands decreasing for other products, such as tobacco and melons. Low coffee prices on the international market have particularly affected small and medium-sized farmers and could impact their investment capacity for the next production season.

    According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA), in response to the prolonged dry spell, it delivered two redeemable food coupons worth GTQ 250.00 each to approximately 300,000 families. At present, there has been no other government assistance in this regard. However, international organizations, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and Save the Children, are planning to continue delivering cash as part of the Food Security and Livelihoods program. In February, WFP supported 4,680 households in the municipality of Moyuta, Jutiapa with unconditional cash deliveries of USD 2.50 per day throughout the month. A second delivery will be made in March. In April, May and June, the number of households will reduce to 2,830. These households will receive the same unconditional cash deliveries of USD 2.50 per day for asset creation (the Cash for Assets method). Within the framework of the Food Security and Livelihoods program, Save the Children makes unconditional cash transfers of up to GTQ 470 per month. From November 2018 to October 2019, the cash transfers will benefit a total of 3,000 households in the municipalities of San Andrés Sajcabajá (900), Sacapulas (900) and San Pedro Jocopilas (1,200). A further 3,000 households will receive these benefits from February to November 2019 in San Bartolomé Jocotenango (600), Santa María Cunen (1,200) and San Miguel Uspantán (1,200).


    The national outlook for February through September 2019 is based on the following assumptions:

    • The national market will remain supplied with maize and beans from northern harvests and also with continuing formal and informal imports from Mexico. Basic grain prices will remain near average, with a slight decrease estimated from March until May when national crops are distributed to the markets, before continuing their seasonal upward trend. According to FEWS NET price projections, prices are expected to remain close to the five-year average, which is around GTQ 135.00 per quintal for maize and GTQ 350 per quintal for black beans.
    • The minimal or non-existent yield of basic grains from the Primera harvest has forced poor households in the Dry Corridor affected by the 2018 prolonged dry spell to purchase maize and beans earlier than usual, prolonging the lean season with its early onset and causing continued dependency on the market for self-sufficiency.
    • As the high seasonal demand for unskilled labor ends and income levels quickly reduce in the following months, the poorest households in the Dry Corridor will be forced to adopt coping strategies to meet their basic needs, particularly their food needs.
    • Weak El Niño conditions from March to May could affect Primera planting with an erratic start of the rainy season, especially in Dry Corridor areas. The dry spell may be prolonged with low rainfall at the beginning or at the end of the period.
    • The irregular distribution of rainfall and above-average temperatures from March to July could cause soil dryness and greater evapotranspiration, which could negatively impact the development of crops in critical stages of growth, thus affecting yields.
    • At present, the Government has not planned any food assistance. However, there is targeted support in the form of cash deliveries to five municipalities, one in the east and four in Quiché, which will continue throughout the year.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Recent basic grain harvests and the high seasonal demand for unskilled labor have improved the food security situation of the poorest households in most parts of the country, except in Dry Corridor areas affected by the long 2018 dry spell. The annual highland harvest and the annual Postrera harvests in the northern, eastern and southern coastal regions have improved household food availability. In addition, the increase in income generated by day laborers, supply of basic grains on the markets and near-average prices of maize and beans will enable households to meet their food needs and maintain their livelihoods, meaning they will remain in Minimal Food Insecurity (IPC Phase 1).

    The poorest households in the Dry Corridor – where the dry spell caused losses of basic grain crops during the Primera harvest – resorted to purchasing maize and beans earlier than usual, even before the high seasonal demand for agricultural day labor began. This forced households to adopt temporary coping strategies until their daily income improved and, in some eastern areas, until Postrera ended. These households will therefore able to meet their minimum food needs, but will have to adopt coping strategies to cover non-food expenses, such as fees for school, health and/or transport, which will lead to Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2).

    However, for households in western areas of the Dry Corridor that depend on one annual harvest to cover their needs for several months, these losses will leave them dependent on purchases for the rest of the year and until the end of the next harvest in December 2019. This situation will have an impact on the quantity and quality of food, as income received from seasonal agricultural day labor will not be sufficient to purchase basic foods during the prolonged lean season. Households will therefore adopt coping strategies, such as increased labor migration, migration to farther locations or migration of family members that traditionally do not work, use of loans, increased livestock sales and reduction of resources used to obtain agricultural inputs for Primera planting. For these households and those in eastern Guatemala that did not have a Postrera harvest, ongoing food purchases and the use of strategies to cover their consumption shortfalls will lead to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) Food Security outcomes. Despite adopting coping strategies to meet consumption shortfalls as the lean season progresses and prolongs, the number of households in Crisis will increase due to deteriorations in their diets.  

    Figures Temperatures will be above average.

    Figure 1

    Projected temperature anomalies, March to May 2019

    Source: NOAA

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top