Photo: Mexico Drought
Although Northern Mexico is accustomed to dry conditions, the unrelenting drought that has spread from Mexico into parts of the U.S. is slowly starving cattle, farms, and farmers leaving the state of Chihuahua in a state of emergency. According to information from El Barzon, a national association which represents small and medium sized farms, during the last twelve months 350,000 cattle have starved to death. Without rain, there is no pasture, and without a pasture the animals have no food.
The severe conditions are prompting many local farmers to consider selling what they have left and changing careers. “With the capital, I could start another business,” says rancher Ismael Solorio. The 24 year old inherited 200 cows from his grandfather in 2008 and the dry conditions left him with only 160 one year ago. Over the past winter and spring Solorio lost 26 more cows to starvation and was forced to sell ten. In order to improve the situation, Solorio borrowed money to buy more pasture for the animals. Yet, as dry conditions continue, Solorio wonders if this is the end of the road for him. “If it doesn’t rain, I will have no choice,” he states.
Yet, many wonder if Solorio is wasting his time waiting for rain. According to Carlos Gay, an atmospheric physicist and head of the Climate Change Program at UNAM in Mexico City, “Northern Mexico has always been arid, and there have often been droughts. But what is strange is the duration of this drought, and the fact that it has been preceded by other droughts. Is it really a drought, or the region’s new climate?”
The lack of precipitation is forcing farmers to dig deeper into the soil and rely on the aquifers below to help irrigate the land. However many aquifers are also beginning to dry up and wells need to be drilled deeper to find water. The process alone can be costly for farmers and many cannot afford to further excavate their wells.
Farmers in the area are not the only ones suffering as a result of the extreme drought conditions. During the last year 60,000 families have requested food aid from either their regional or federal governments