At least 257 cows have died as a months-old drought tightens its grip on Costa Rica’s barren Northern Zone.
The government on Thursday declared a national emergency, immediately freeing up $300,000 and opening the door for more than $1 million more in the coming days.
The cattle deaths have affected 54 ranches in the canton of Los Chiles, which borders Nicaragua in north-central Costa Rica.
“We are talking about a lot of people that live off agriculture and also need water to satisfy their basic food and cleaning necessities,” said national Ombudswoman Lisbeth Quesada.
Officials in the region are looking at their options in case rains this week do not continue. By press time it was unclear exactly what the emergency funds would be spent on, but a brief statement from President Oscar Arias’ office said the anticipated $1.3 million could go toward “rehabilitation, reconstruction and repositioning of the agricultural areas and damaged public services.”
Eliud Herrera, regional director of the Production Ministry’s National Animal Health Department (SENASA), told The Tico Times earlier in the week that officials were looking into supplying local farmers with alternate feed for their cattle to make up for the decimated pastures, and digging new wells to find water.
Administration officials have suggested the possibility of emergency credits from national banks to help the farmers, but so far no announcements have been made.