In August, rows of corn plants dotted the rural landscape in the Honduran department of Lempira. From afar, nothing looked amiss in these small farms. Yet it hadn’t rained for the previous 40 days, and the corn cobs tucked inside the husks were small and kernel-less. Across Honduras, an unpredictable climate has made this situation increasingly common. Droughts have wrecked crops, and changing weather patterns have created additional challenges for millions of Honduran farmers. To survive amid the bad harvests, rural families are looking elsewhere to supplement their incomes: to different sectors, nearby cities and north to the United States.
A caravan with thousands of migrants has been making its way through Mexico after setting out three weeks ago from Honduras, which holds the distinction of being one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. Over the past four decades, the country’s average temperature has risen, and it has borne the brunt of ever more frequent severe weather events. These climatic changes are on a collision path with the country’s weather-dependent workforce and economy. Today, 1 in 4 Hondurans continues to work directly in agriculture, and bananas and coffee continue to be two of the top economic drivers.
Droughts are among the country’s most common risks. Central and western Honduras — including the department of Lempira — form part of Central America’s “dry corridor.” It stretches from Nicaragua through Guatemala and is prone to reoccurring droughts that leave parched crops, bone-thin cattle and hungry families in their wake. In 2016, the United Nations’ World Food Program estimated that a recent drought left 1.3 million Hondurans in need of humanitarian assistance. This hunger translates directly into migration, with the Food and Agriculture Organization reporting that from 2014 to 2016, people migrating out of the dry corridor’s drought-stricken areas most frequently cited “no food” as the driving factor.