San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Agriculture

Costa Rica starts aid distribution to Guanacaste farmers stricken by drought

Officials from the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) and the National Emergency Commission (CNE) began distributing animal feed and other supplies to help nearly 4,000 farmers affected by a lack of rainfall in the country’s northwestern province of Guanacaste.

MAG officials will distribute aid throughout this month and into July, including seed, bales of hay, minerals, molasses, dried orange pulp, corn and concentrated food. Later this month, MAG also will begin distributing sugar to beekeepers.

The CNE approved a total allocation so far of ₡1 billion ($2 million) to assist Guanacaste’s farmers, the ministry’s regional director, Oscar Vásquez Rosales, said.

Residents in 11 districts from the cantons of Carrillo, Liberia, La Cruz, Santa Cruz, Nicoya and Nandayure are the most affected by the lack of rain, MAG reported.

Leonardo Murillo Torres, research director at the National Cattle Farmers’ Corporation, said he does not yet have exact figures on losses, but the association has received reports that at least 200 cattle have died due to a lack of water this year. He expects up to 400,000 cattle to be affected at some level by the lack of water.

Rainy season in Costa Rica runs from May to November, but rains have been scarce in the northwestern province. The first showers began just last week, and according to National Meteorological Institute (IMN) forecasts, drought conditions might return starting next week.

Drought in Guanacaste in recent weeks has caused lost crops and livestock, and the damage is still being studied by MAG. A preliminary report is expected later this week, the ministry’s press office reported.

Rainfall levels in May reached record lows for Guanacaste, and according to the IMN, showers at the end of last week were the first with normal rainfall levels for the season.

According to IMN data, several communities in Guancaste registered rainfall levels below 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) last month. Liberia regostered 0.5 millimeters – the lowest since 1967, when the community had 7.5 mm – while Cañas recorded 7.1 mm and Santa Rosa 4.8 mm.

MAG plans include investing an additional ₡1.2 billion ($2.2 million) in supplies to assist farmers during the second half of this year and the first half of 2016.

Ministry experts also are outlining plans to improve water supplies on farms by building mills to pump water and installing solar water pumps and other options for alternative irrigation to the most-affected areas.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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