By Jose Luis Gonzalez COYAME, Mexico (Reuters) – Hicterio Torres Franco’s animals are dying: deprived of water in one of the worst droughts Mexico has seen for 30 years. In the distance lies one of his donkeys, its carcass eyed by vultures. Some 19 cows have perished too. “It’s been a big loss,” laments Torres, […]
‘We need rain’: Mexican farmers ravaged by northern drought
By Jose Luis Gonzalez
COYAME, Mexico (Reuters) – Hicterio Torres Franco’s animals are dying: deprived of water in one of the worst droughts Mexico has seen for 30 years.
In the distance lies one of his donkeys, its carcass eyed by vultures. Some 19 cows have perished too.
“It’s been a big loss,” laments Torres, whose farm sits alongside the El Granero dam in the northern state of Chihuahua.
Just 10% of Mexico’s dams are now full, with many seeing levels drop below half or lower, according to official data.
July was the second hottest month in Mexico since 1953, according to the national weather service, with temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) last month in some areas.
Agricultural towns like Coyame, which do not have access to groundwater and are almost entirely dependent on the region’s shrinking dam, have been devastated.
The town’s cattle have been depleted, harvests disrupted, and fisheries culled, forcing some workers to move to cities.
In recent weeks, rainfall from the American monsoon has provided some relief in Chihuahua, but farmers say it is not enough.
“Things were good before… but only half of us (fishermen) are left here now,” says Jesus Gerardo, who has been fishing in the area for 15 years. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen the dam sink, but never to this level.”
In mid-July, the Mexican government declared a national emergency, and announced initiatives to prevent companies like Coca Cola and Heineken extracting so much water in the north.
There have also been water caps on households in the northern industrial city of Monterrey..
Nonetheless the crisis has persisted, and has sparked protests and roadblocks around Monterrey.
‘ABANDONED’ Water experts like Rafael Sanchez, who works at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, have been increasingly vocal about the risks to remote farming areas.
“In some states, irrigation is practically disappearing due to lack of precipitation,” he said last year, noting low reservoirs and reduced water transfers to farms.
Chihuahua locals say they need more help, including an economic fund that puts the state of emergency into practice.
Gerardo, the fisherman, said pleas for authorities to invest in new pipes to ensure better water storage and transportation from the dam have gone ignored.
“The federal government should show more interest in this area, we’re totally abandoned,” he said.
The economic devastation in Coyame could be felt for a long time still, with only 30% of its next harvest planted.
Rivers have dried up to reveal cracked beds. Fields that should be teeming are bare. The earth is so dry that young crops are wilting. Surviving cattle are bony, their ribs protruding.
Rancher Julio Cesar Arzola says there is one simple answer: “We need rain.”
(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez, Additional reporting by Isabel Woodford, Writing by Isabel Woodford, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)