More severe droughts. Reduced water availability. Stronger hurricanes and storm surge. Heavy and erratic rainfall, landslides, and flooding.
Climate change is taking its toll on the people of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Without reliable harvests that can provide stable sources of income, many struggle to feed their families. Huge storms — such as Category 4 hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit Guatemala and Honduras within two weeks of each other in November 2020 — cause thousands of people to lose their homes and their livelihoods. Rising ocean temperatures and dwindling forest cover put pressure on communities that depend on these ecosystems for survival. Many Central Americans who have seen their lives impacted by climate change have arrived at the U.S. border in search of a better life.
USAID is helping the people of the region mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and build resilience to future environmental shocks. Here are three ways that we’re ensuring a more prosperous, stable tomorrow for Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans right at home.
1. Helping farmers adapt to grow their crops — and their incomes:
Prolonged drought, flooding, and lack of crop variety have caused high levels of food insecurity in the Dry Corridor of Honduras, leaving approximately 2.5 million people in need of emergency food assistance. Rather than face starvation, many seek to come to the United States.
With help from USAID, Honduran farmers are adapting to these challenges by increasing their production, diversifying to higher-value crops, converting to technologies like drip irrigation that help crops thrive in erratic weather, accessing climate data to improve crop management, and promoting watershed management practices to ensure water availability.
Through efforts like these, we’ve helped more than 22,000 Honduran farmers see higher, more stable incomes, which helps them to build their lives at home.
2. Protecting both fish and fishing communities:
As the climate changes, ocean temperatures rise and oceans acidify, killing coral and destroying marine habitats. Many communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that rely on fishing as a traditional source of income and food face enormous pressure as their livelihood dwindles due to overfishing and damaged seas.
USAID is helping coastal communities in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala learn how to better manage the ecosystem on which they rely. For example, USAID is training young people in mangrove ecosystem management; mangroves form essential barriers to protect communities from storm surge, and are also important habitats for bees, birds, and fish.
In addition, with USAID’s help, small businesses are developing business plans to sustainably produce and market snook, snapper, shrimp, lobster, and mangrove honey, and engage in sustainable eco-tourism. Through efforts like these, we’re helping to improve livelihoods while also protecting the area’s precious natural resources.
3. Thriving forests, thriving humans:
At more than 13 million acres, the Maya Forest extends across parts of Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala, and is the second-largest forest ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, after the Amazon. Numerous species of plants and animals live in the tropical rainforests, tree cover provides essential oxygen and reduces carbon monoxide in the atmosphere, and mature forests stabilize the ground and provide cover that helps inhabitants weather severe storms.
This critical area is threatened by climate change and other damaging activities such as illegal logging and drug trafficking. Deforestation is the largest source of Guatemala’s greenhouse gas emissions. Maintaining healthy standing forests is critical to mitigating climate change in Guatemala.
In Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, USAID is helping communities whose livelihoods depend on healthy ecosystems and thriving standing forests. We are promoting job creation and income-generating opportunities through biodiversity conservation, protected area management, and sustainable forest management. We strengthen sustainable value chains like timber and non-timber forest products, tourism, and fisheries. And we are helping to shift Guatemala’s export base from raw materials to higher-value finished goods, which increases incomes while conserving biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Like the Maya Biosphere Reserve itself, these communities are thriving — between 2013 and 2020, these efforts generated more than $63 million in sales of products and services and created more than 9,800 full-time jobs. Even better, these communities reinvest up to 30 percent of their profits directly into the community for school upgrades, rural infrastructure, healthcare, and scholarships.
Through these and other efforts to grow prosperity, build security, and strengthen democracy, USAID is generating hope in Central America. We remain committed to working with the people of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras so that they can see a brighter future at home.
Learn more about USAID's efforts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
This blog was originally published on the USAID Medium website.
USAID is the world's premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID's work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.