Changing weather patterns have become an increasingly concerning issue around the world due to the long-term effects of human activities. Many countries, including those in Central America, face exposure to the long-term effects of fluctuations in the weather. In 2020, Hurricanes Eta and Iota swept through Central America, taking more than 200 lives. CNN reported that the upcoming heatwaves could potentially devastate countries in Central America “due to their fast-growing populations and limited access to health care and energy supplies.” This could be damaging for low-income families because they do not have the capacities to deal with these new environmental adjustments. However, the introduction of new programs and projects could assist these families in combating the life-threatening weather fluctuations in Central America.

Poverty in Central America

There are seven countries in Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. According to La Prensa Latina, “Many in Central America live below the poverty line, including 73% of the population in Honduras and 60% in Guatemala…26.2% in Costa Rica, 22.8% in El Salvador and 12.3% in Panama. In Nicaragua, 52% of the population was living in poverty and 22% in extreme poverty at the end of 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.” In 2020, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras were in the bottom percentiles with respect to health spending.

Impact on Agriculture

The available statistics suggest that low-income families could be vulnerable to sudden environmental changes in Central America. The country is dependent on its agriculture which has suffered great losses from droughts and floods. In 2014, the losses accounted for more than $460 million and by 2021, the losses had reached up to $10 billion.

Many farmers and their families have been greatly impacted by these losses. The results of the damages led to food insecurity and migration to the United States (U.S.). According to The Climate Reality Project, “More than 30% of jobs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are in agriculture.” The change in weather patterns could decrease labor income and force households to rely on aid, which the lawmakers in Central America provide very little of.

UN Environment Program

Currently, several projects are underway by the U.N. Environment Program. These projects aim to help the occupants of Central America and also encourage the government to make addressing changes a priority. Some of the programs and project the U.N. Environment Program has underway are:

  • MOVE: This project aims to assist with mobilizing electric transportation in Latin countries. It created the MoveToZero movement to encourage the government and private sectors to increase the funding for decarbonizing the energy sector. The goal of this effort is to ensure cleaner mobility.
  • CityAdapt: Its objective is to help citizens adapt to changes in the weather with nature-based solutions. The approach here involves restoring and protecting the ecosystems.
  • Microfinance for Ecosystem-based Adaptation (MEbA): It is providing products to those in remote areas, enabling them to invest, boost their income and continue to restore the ecosystems. MEbA began in 2012 and has shown farmers how to use organic fertilizer, solar dehydrators, greenhouses, agroforestry systems and more. Its approach also involves preserving ecosystems so that in turn, civilians reap the benefits.

Looking Ahead

A health emergency has been declared because of the changes in Central America. With more access to resources, citizens in Central America could get help with adjusting to the effects of climate change. There are many more projects and programs that the U.N. Environment Program is providing to aid affected people and get concerned governments on board. And by focusing on cleaner mobility, ecosystem preservation and empowering local communities, these projects contribute to resilience and positive change in Central America’s response to environmental challenges.

Zyairah White

Photo: Flickr