Mexican maize harvests depleted by drought

Mexican maize harvests depleted by drought

Julia Flores Carerra lives in the house where she was born 50 years ago, situated in the Morelos neighbourhood in the Pueblos District of Mexico. Over time she has experienced an increase in local temperatures and unpredictable rainfall, now she struggles to grow plants for her business in traditional medicine. It is a bad time for poor business because the changing weather in the region is also causing the harvests to fail, sending food prices sky high.

People in Puebla District, Mexico, have noticed how the climate is changing. Temperatures are hotter and therain does not come when it used to. Now when the rains come they do so in heavy bursts, which often wash seeds away. In the drier environment and scorching heat, people arefinding it harder to grow their staple crops of beans and maize– crops are drying up so the harvests fail and there is notenough to eat and sell at market.

‘Rain is scarce now,’ says Julia.‘The few times that it does rain it rainsvery heavily and then it stops altogether. This is something we didn’t have before. Now the rainy season is shorter and the dryseason is longer. Last year it rained 15 days straight and thenit didn’t rain again for two months so all the crops dried up.There was no harvest.’

Julia, like many other Mexicans in the Puebla District, rely on a successful maize harvest. ‘If we haven’t got maize it’s a basic food that we haven’t got and then we have to pay for. Sometimes we just harvest enough to half feed our animals. But it’s not enough for us; we must buy it.’

Last year, there was not enough food to go around. Many people like Julia had to buy maize and face the rising cost of food. ‘We had to buy maize for us and food for the animals last year,’ she says. ‘Maize has gone up from 10 Pesos last year to 15 this year.’

Things didn’t always used to be this way. ‘There were more harvests when I was a little girl. My dad usedto have a little shed which he kept his harvest in. It was always full of maize,’ explains Julia.‘We would get more in abundance. Now we don’t.There’s a well down there that I used to get water from as achild but now it’s almost gone. There used to be plenty there.’

At the sametime as the change in weather patterns, different insects – referred to by locals as ‘plagues’ – have come. They eat crops and plants, making it even harder to producefood. Julia’s medicinal plants have been affected by the plagues, making it more difficult for her to make the money she needs to buy food when the crops fail.

People are doing what they can to adapt to the changing climate. Farmers across the region are experimenting with different crops like onions and pumpkins. But the lack of water means that finding viable alternatives are rarely successful. Julia invested in a tank to collectrainwater to water her plants. But even this could not compensate for the severe two-month drought last year. ‘Without water we haven’t got plants. We haven’t got life,’ says Julia.

Source: Oxfam

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