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Just Scraping By

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Florentino Mendez de la Cruz, 54, and his family hit rock bottom in 2015, when most of their corn crop got a fungus and rotted. 

One of the worst droughts in recent memory has shocked the agricultural system and left hundreds of local families in Honduras wondering how they’ll make ends meet.

Little rain has fallen since mid-2014. Much of the mainstay corn and grain crops failed in mid-2015. The late 2015 planting season that led to the early 2016 harvest saw estimated maize production losses of 30 percent and bean losses of 15 percent, according to the Famine Early Warning System Network. Copan area farmers are struggling to cope with the loss of food and income. 

In May 2015, Florentino harvested enough corn to fill 10 sacks; significantly fewer than the 20 to 25 sacks he garners in a good season. Leading up to that harvest, he said everything was abnormal—rain when it’s supposed to be dry; dry when it’s supposed to rain. 

“Later when I started to inspect (the corn), I found lots of fungus in the grain, which is very dangerous to health,” Florentino said, recounting his family’s precarious situation in early 2016.

“Not even the chickens eat this corn,” he says.

The family relies on its corn and bean crops to eat and to earn income by selling surplus stocks. They can fetch $33 per 200-pound sack of corn, and about $51 per 200-pound sack of beans. A good year will produce about 40 sacks of corn and 20 sacks of beans over two harvests. That's a potential income of $2,340, if you don't count what they keep for consumption. But because they can't get the product to market in the city, they take what they can get from the middle men—about 33 percent less per sack. 

So, when the mid-2015 harvest rendered the rotten corn and just a couple of sacks of edible beans, Florentino didn’t know what to do. And he was afraid to leave his family alone to look for work outside of Santa Rosita because he feels he won't be able to provide for them.

To help Florentino, Feliciana, and their neighbors cope with the disastrous effects of the wonky weather, World Vision staff in the Copan area provided emergency food assistance to get them through the early 2016 lean season while they cultivated their new crop. They also offered residents training in natural resource stewardship, soil management, establishing savings groups, and entrepreneurship and managerial skills. 

This is helping Florentino and other community members build skills and pursue opportunities that will help the family persevere on their own through future droughts and lean years.

Photo©2014 World Vision, Wilson Cabrera

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