The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has launched a response and action plan aimed at mobilising $36.9 million to provide assistance to vulnerable communities in Latin America in the face of the potential impact of the El Niño phenomenon.
The plan, announced as part of Humanitarian Assistance Month, which is officially commemorated on 19 August, aims to support 1.16 million people in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela.
The agency notes that measures to mitigate the potential impacts of El Niño on agricultural livelihoods and food security in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala have been in place since June this year. The aim is to reduce the need for humanitarian aid and build more resilient environments.
In the coming months, support will also be provided to at-risk farming families, mainly indigenous peoples in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Measures proposed in the plan include the provision of drought-resistant seeds, support for water harvesting, storage and management, cash assistance, training in water resource management, and actions to protect livestock, artisanal fisheries and crops.
More support needed
The announced plan seeks to build on existing efforts to scale up these interventions, reaching more affected households and strengthening the food security of populations.
"The situation in Latin America and the Caribbean requires a joint and urgent response. We urge governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to come together to protect the food security and livelihoods of the most vulnerable rural families in the face of the critical El Niño scenario," said the agency's Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mario Lubetkin added that these efforts "will not only reduce the potential impact of this phenomenon, but will also allow us to build resilience to face the climate change that is also affecting the region today.
This response plan is part of a global appeal to raise funds to cope with El Niño and includes, in addition to Latin America, countries in other regions such as Africa and Asia Pacific. In total, $88.9 million will be mobilised to assist approximately 2.6 million people.
Risk to food security
During 2022, some 17.8 million people in the region experienced acute food insecurity at "crisis" or "emergency" levels, i.e. went hungry, according to the Global Food Crisis Report. Hunger has actually increased in the region and is linked to a deterioration of livelihoods and a spiral of vulnerability capable of plunging people into poverty.
The agency warns that, for these mostly rural people, any further El Niño shocks will have a devastating impact.
Thanks to the Emergency Data Information System, supported by the UN agency, it is known that most of the agricultural producers in the Dry Corridor are small-scale farmers who are already experiencing severe difficulties in accessing food and face challenges in accessing agricultural and veterinary inputs, as well as in marketing their products.