As El Niño Wanes, Food Security Pain Remains

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El Niño is a natural phenomenon where rising temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, low atmospheric pressure and weakening of the winds; bringing drier, hotter conditions to Latin America. The El Niño event that began in June 2023 peaked at 2 degrees celsius above average sea surface temperature, making it one of the five strongest El Nino events ever.

Over 800,000 people in rural Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela are estimated to have been exposed to drought in 2023 according to World Food Program modeling and diminished harvests are expected to cause food insecurity is expected into late 2024 and 2025.

Researchers at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT who have studied previous El Niño events and their impact on staple crops like rice, beans and corn say that Latin America is particularly vulnerable to food insecurity thanks to the current El Niño cycle.

“In the region, there are many countries where agricultural systems depend on rainfall,” says Camilo Barrios-Perez, a research specialist on crop-climate interactions and crop modeling at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

“When there is less water for agriculture, farmers can’t plant as much as they want, especially in lower-middle income countries,” he says,

“These countries are very affected and they will not have enough to eat.”

Barrios-Perez explains that the global nature of the phenomenon makes it worse, as larger agricultural countries like India are also not producing at the usual rate, with droughts and heat waves making production more expensive.

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