Poverty and Migration

As almost a million small-scale farmers across Central America’s dry corridor grapple with chronic drought, hunger and desperation, Catholic Relief Services is working to find solutions that bring lasting change.

Image courtesy of NASA

Cycles of drought and flooding endanger farming, the number-one livelihood in the region. In fact, over 6 million small-share farmers around the world are struggling with perilous new weather patterns in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Mexico. At risk are coffee, beans, corn, rice and livestock—many of these for consumption or to sell at market, but all essential to their livelihoods and family’s well-being.

Irma Mendez and her husband Silverio Mendez live in Barrio El Cedro, Chiquimula, Guatemala with their 5 daughters and 2 sons. Silverio has lived there all his life and his family has been on this land for three generations. There have been extended droughts in the area, which is now known as the dry corridor.

Parched corn and bean fields, congested with rocks the size of basketballs, tell the increasingly grim story of farming on land with immense challenges.

“They are getting 100 millimeters of rain at a time. Then they are going 20 to 30 days without rain. And in some extreme cases, we’re seeing 45 days of dry weather, which no crop can resist,” says Daniel McQuillan, head of agriculture for CRS Guatemala and Mexico.
Imagine losing four of your past six years’ salary.

“When we don’t have enough corn, we have to borrow money from somebody from the community,” Irma says. “We use it to survive, because there’s no way to pay for things. Then when we start making some money, we save it up to pay that loan off later. The malnutrition rate for children living in the Dry Corridor is 49.8%.

It might not look like it, but Silverio’s best resource is right under his feet.

It’s called water-smart agriculture, and it introduces farming practices designed to revive the region’s degraded land and protect precious water resources. CRS partners with farmers to pinpoint community needs, customize solutions, and spread the word about simple, cost-effective practices that often show results in just one harvest.

In a Dry Corridor setting in Nicaragua, 30% of farmers used water-smart techniques three years ago. As neighbors teach one another, 100% have made shifts or have adopted water-smart agriculture.

In the best of times, agriculture is a backbreaking, complex way to earn a living. CRS helps small producers move from subsistence farming to running a successful agribusiness. By adapting to changing conditions, increasing production and implementing marketing and business skills, Silverio and Irma can put their family on a path to prosperity for generations to come.

What Your Advocacy Means for Migrants and Refugees:

For our brothers and sisters living in poverty, the issues of our changing climate, hunger and migration are intricately linked—and so too must be our approach. At the beginning of this new, 116th Congress, Congress passed the FY19 federal budget. Thanks to the advocacy of Catholics and others across the country—we collectively succeeded in preventing drastic cuts to foreign aid that serves those most vulnerable and forced to flee their homes.

Since the spring, this network has been active in ensuring that members in the Senate and House understand that we must continue to protect critical assistance from the administration’s proposed cuts. The Church’s teaching was given voice in a congressional testimony by Archbishop Broglio advocating for more robust diplomatic and development-centered engagement. 

The House committees responsible for setting funding levels for life-saving foreign aid are in the process of starting to mark-up their bills. As the Senate prepares to begin their process, lift your voice to support funding for migrants and refugees overseas.