Central American farmers head to the U.S., fleeing climate change

The New York Times reports:

The farmer stood in his patch of forlorn coffee plants, their leaves sick and wilted, the next harvest in doubt.

Last year, two of his brothers and a sister, desperate to find a better way to survive, abandoned their small coffee farms in this mountainous part of Honduras and migrated north, eventually sneaking into the United States.

Then in February, the farmer’s 16-year-old son also headed north, ignoring the family’s pleas to stay.

The challenges of agricultural life in Honduras have always been mighty, from poverty and a neglectful government to the swings of international commodity prices.

But farmers, agricultural scientists and industry officials say a new threat has been ruining harvests, upending lives and adding to the surge of families migrating to the United States: climate change.

And their worries are increasingly shared by climate scientists as well.

Gradually rising temperatures, more extreme weather events and increasingly unpredictable patterns — like rain not falling when it should, or pouring when it shouldn’t — have disrupted growing cycles and promoted the relentless spread of pests.

The obstacles have cut crop production or wiped out entire harvests, leaving already poor families destitute.

Central America is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, scientists say. And because agriculture employs much of the labor force — about 28 percent in Honduras alone, according to the World Bank — the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake. [Continue reading…]

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