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#506494 - 08/07/15 05:23 PM Belize on drought watch
Marty Offline
If it has seemed hotter and drier to you than it normally is, that is because in reality, it has been. Although Amandala has been unable to get updated rainfall data from local authorities for the first two months of the rainy season, June and July, they have confirmed to us that there is a drought watch in effect, particularly for northwestern Belize, as below average rainfall is expected this season for almost all of the country—except the south. This will be particularly pronounced for the next 3 months: spanning August to October 2015.

The seasonal precipitation forecast, published by the National Meteorological Service for August to October 2015, uses data dating back to 1979.

A stronger than expected El Niño—which has suppressed hurricane activity this season with only three names storms emerging in the Atlantic—has been having major impact on our weather.

On Tuesday, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) issued a release, saying that Central America is bracing for a stronger than expected El Niño, although initial forecasts called for a moderate one.

The report said that the effects of El Niño, which began in early 2015, will continue to cause problems well into next year, and it may be necessary for countries to adopt prevention and mitigation measures to protect the agricultural sector.

Expert reports presented at a recent IICA forum indicate that Central America will continue to face either very dry conditions, especially along the Pacific coast, from the east of El Salvador down to Panama; or very high rainfall, in some areas of the southern Caribbean coast of Central America and part of Guatemala’s Pacific coast.

Chief Met Officer Dennis Gonguez told Amandala today that for Belize, the impact of El Niño was manifested with the dry tropical wave, coming from the east, which caused a brief thunderstorm over some parts of the country yesterday.

“That is the effect of El Niño,” he said, pointing out that the tropical waves spawned under such conditions do not have much moisture with them.

He said that as El Niño sets in even further, the Eastern Caribbean countries are looking to have a drought warning in place for September to October – which, he said, is a higher level of alert than the drought watch now in effect for northwestern Belize. This area, said Gonguez, includes Corozal, Orange Walk, Cayo and part of the Belize District.

“If the forecast materializes, we could have some issues come October… The agriculture sector would be the first to be impacted significantly,” Gonguez said.

Gonguez expressed concern that El Niño conditions could have implications going into the dry season, as it could make the dry season potentially worse.

We asked whether the conditions that have been affecting Belize—in fact since last year—have anything to do with climate change. Gonguez said that it could be deemed climate change if the conditions persist, but for now they call it climate variability.

IICA warns that the strong El Niño could negatively impact subsistence farmers, including those who plant corn and beans – two of the main crops in the region; and livestock could be affected by shortages of water and fodder, while high temperatures could disrupt the flowering stage of fruit trees.

They are urging mitigation measures, such as the recalculation of planting dates for annual crops, as well as the use of pest monitoring systems to prevent health risks, and preparations for a longer, hotter dry season.

Amandala

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#506774 - 08/19/15 10:52 AM Re: Belize on drought watch [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Min. Of Agriculture: There Is A Northern Drought

Last week - we showed you the grain farmers of the Orange Walk district - who told their story of losing hundreds of acres of corn fields to drought. Here's what the CEO of the Indian Creek Co-Op told us last week about drought conditions in three of the last 4 years:..

Jacob Harms, CEO - Indian Creek Co-Op
"From 2012 we had a serious loss on that. We lost about 90% of our corn fields and then in 2013, we did good. We had a yield about 134,000 bags. Then 2014, we lost almost everything. We were expecting about 250,000 bags of corn. We only received 48,000 bags. So we had a huge loss and this year it looks like we will go the same way or even worse."

"We need the corm for food, for our own to make our corn tortillas and for animal feed, both. We must survive. We must go on. We are looking at the corn field to see what is happening here and we see that the drought is affecting us a lot and we don't know what to do anymore because we are just down. We need any support for something."

Well, today the Ministry of Agriculture sent out a trio of technical reports from the Meteorology Department which confirms that there is a , quote, "drought watch" for northern Belize. This map of the Caribbean region shows Belize shaded in yellow which means that is under drought watch - which is only the first stage of concern - lower than a drought warning, or drought emergency. On the current situation, the report concludes, quote, "Because of the…Below Normal rainfall that is prevailing in 2015 Wet season some parts of Belize especially the North of the country is experiencing drought."

And it doesn't look to improve. The Precipitation Outlook for the period AugustSeptember-October 2015 shows that below normal rainfall levels are expected in the north - particularly in northwest Orange Walk and Northern Corozal. And what's the cause of the below average rainfall? It's called an El Niño Southern Oscillation: which weakens the development of rain, thunder and tropical storms.

The report concludes that the seasonal forecast for August/September/October 2015 is for Below Normal rainfall to prevail over Entire Belize, except the South which will have normal rainfall.

Channel 7


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#507550 - 09/18/15 11:00 AM Re: Belize on drought watch [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Drought Has Cost Bze 28.5 Mil. (So Far)

The 2015 drought has cost Belizean farmers 28.5 million dollars. That's what the Ministry of Agriculture says after their latest survey of what they stress is an ongoing situation that is not expected to ease up until November. The survey shows that corn is the hardest hit with losses of 18 million dollars, followed by soybean at 5.5 million dollars and then rice at 2 million dollars. And projections are that sugar cane will also be affected, and production in that sector could go down by as much as 25%.

The north is the hardest hit and we went back to Orange Walk South today where the losses are still mounting. Jules Vasquez reports:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
This is a field that looked bad four weeks ago - but now it is dead - limp, lifeless and that sickly yellow that is synonymous with death in agriculture. We did find a few dried, dwarfed and useless corn cobs, nothing more - a complete write off acres upon acres wasted the sun leeching out the last life from these crops the stalks still reaching up hopelessly to the rainless sky all, told, an expanse of ruin and loss.

Max Hernandez, San Carlos Community
"In San Carlos, we have 35 years. This year is the first that there is no rain. Every farmer small farmer, even the Mennonites lose all the crops."

Max Hernandez has worked this land as a vegetable farmer for more than three decades, and his fields - this one for carrot - are outfitted with irrigation pipes. But, in this drought year, the irrigation trickle is more than before.

Max Hernandez, San Carlos Community
"When the rains come, in the week maybe we have like 500 gallons an hour. Right now maybe we spends like 800 gallons an hour."

More gallons means more fuel - which translates into higher production costs:

Jules Vasquez
"So the having this irrigation system saves you from the drought, but it drives up your cost of production?"

Max Hernandez, San Carlos Community
"Yes. Right now we spend more money to buy fuel and the cost of production goes up."

Which ultimately ends up costing you:

Max Hernandez, San Carlos Community
"Right now we sell carrots for about 80 cents a pound. If the dry season continues, we will sell for one dollar per pound to recuperate the fuel expenses."

Fuel expenses are the least of the concern for John Knelsen - his problems are much deeper and more expensive:

John Knelsen, Farmer
"We have 650 acres of corn that have lost complete and 170 acres of soy beans that we have lost completely also. The corn is about $620 per acre and the soy beans is $650 per acre."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"We were talking earlier and you said basically you had to borrow to get this crop going."

John Knelsen, Farmer
"Yes, we lost about $450,000. We don't know how to get the money back to plant next time."

Max Hernandez, San Carlos Community
"When I produce, I feed the people of Belize. Especially the corn, beans, pigs, beef, eggs, chickens, even processing milk if the Mennonite doesn't have."

Hon. Jose Mai, OW South Representative
"The cost of corn obviously will go up. In this country as I've said before 80%-90% of the corn is used for animal feed. So it is clear that the price of poultry will go up. The price of pork meat will go up. The price of our tacos will go up and of course eggs. Eggs are already 3 for one dollar. I don't know how much it will be now. But people don't understand the rippling effect it will have."

KNELSEN has got hundreds of acres of corn crushed by the sun starved of nutrients and flattened as he surveys an arid and brown landscape.

John Knelsen, Farmer
"I have 25 years that I have farmed here and but it wasn't until 2012 and 1997 - but I have not lost completely."

It shouldn't be that bad, after all, he's got an elaborate irrigation rig - but can't get it to work because he's dug two wells hundreds of feet into the earth and they are both dry or insufficient to provide enough irrigation:

John Knelsen, Farmer
"We make wells. I have 6 already, it only produced 300 gallons per minute. We need 1600 gallons per minute. The next step will be to find out if we can make a well in the savannas one mile from here and then we have to put the irrigation pipes all over here for one mile and then we will see if that will work."

It will be thousands of dollars for just the pipes - but with the financial hole he's in, he just has to keep digging:

John Knelsen, Farmer
"If we have the money to start once again, and if we get water and we have that ready, I think the next season could be different."

Jules Vasquez
"You still have hope?"

John Knelsen, Farmer
"We have to hope all the time."

And on these parched and waterless lands - it seems hope is the only that springs eternal. And for that they are turning to government:

John Knelsen, Farmer
"We think if the government could help with something... to lend us some money from the DFC or somewhere, so we will see what that will do."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"If that doesnt happen, you have any other options at this point?"

John Knelsen, Farmer
"We have options. We can borrow at the credit union, but the interest is at a higher rate. We are looking for a lower rate and so probably they can help us."

Hon. Jose Mai, OW South Representative
"We already heard the farmers. I cannot expect the Prime Minister to go into his pocket and take out money and give to the farmers. That's not what we are expecting, but there must be something in place that will help the farmers to alleviate the situation. Now what is government planning? We have heard nothing from them since this story aired a month and a half ago. We've heard nothing from them."

In an article in today's Guardian Newspaper, CEO in the Ministry of Agriculture Jose Alpuche is quoted as saying that DFC is contemplating the possibility of interest forgiveness for drought-affected farmers. The Ministry will also be looking at making seed money available for replanting. In the longer term, Alpuche told the UDP's party organ that his Ministry is looking at water management in the north, including the implementation of irrigation infrastructure to harness water resources from rain as well as rivers while minimizing the use of groundwater reservoirs.

Channel 7


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#508131 - 10/09/15 11:04 AM Re: Belize on drought watch [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Corn Farmers Will Get Help From GOB

And while they can't help Maya King - the Prime Minister says government will do what it can to help farmers in the north who have been hit hard by drought. It's a joint effort between the DFC and the Ministry of Agriculture:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"We will provide seeds to farmers. The DFC has agreed again to suspend interest payments and government will actually fund seeds for replanting. So that's the sort of thing that we can do, but that's industrywide and individual farmers will benefit."

The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that drought losses in the agricultural sector this year exceed 30 million dollars.

Channel 7


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#509590 - 12/01/15 10:10 PM Re: Belize on drought watch [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Severe drought in Belize during rainy season due to strong El Niño

Although Belize was spared many major storm events during this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season, which concludes today, November 30, the El Niño phenomenon which suppressed storm activity in the Caribbean led to very dry conditions which caused “severe drought” in northern and western Belize, as well as hotter than normal temperatures during the summer months—oftentimes feeling like in excess of 100 degrees.

This was confirmed by Chief Meteorological Officer Dennis Gonguez, who informed today that: “The strong El Niño event prevented even the tropical waves from supporting significant amounts of rainfall as they crossed the Caribbean Sea.”

The unusual heat which made many uncomfortable during the summer months was also a consequence of El Niño, Gonguez confirmed to Amandala.


Information published by the National Meteorological Service indicates that drought conditions should continue into the dry season. A drought warning is in effect for northern, inland, and central coastal areas of Belize, while a drought watch is in effect for southwest Belize. Drought concerns will continue to year-end.

Despite the extended drought forecast, there has been periodic reprieve, as the dry conditions were recently alleviated towards the end of the rainy season, with two major flood events occurring only weeks apart.


Gonguez said that one of these systems moved across the country over the weekend, of the 17th and 18th October and dumped 28.75 inches of rain over a three-day period, primarily over the Belize City area. On the Saturday alone, Belize City received 10 inches of rainfall, causing evacuations of certain flood-prone parts of the city.

Gonguez said that the second spate of rains which resulted in flooding of central, western and southern Belize in November was worse because of the prior flood event. Additionally, its impacts were more widespread.

Belize was minimally impacted by tropical waves, and a few smaller systems forming in the Gulf of Honduras area.

“This put an end to some of the rainfall shortage that was being experienced around the country,” he added.

Gonguez forewarned that Belizeans should not become complacent, thinking that next year’s hurricane season will be the same as this past season, since the El Niño will transition into a neutral phase early next year.

According to Gonguez, the El Niño phenomenon should fade out around May and June next year. This, he said, could lead to heightened storm activity next season.

The season summary provided by Gonguez reveals that the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season was below average. There were 11 named storms, 4 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes, categories 3 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. This was slightly below the season average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. The initial season forecast had predicted 7 named storms and 3 hurricanes but 1 major hurricane.

Although the season officially opens on June 1, the first named storm emerged as Ana on May 8.

The year’s most destructive Atlantic Hurricane was Hurricane Joaquin, which swept over Central Bahamas as a category 5 storm. The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) summary said that Joaquin, which maxed out at 155 miles per hour, killed 34 people.

“Based on a, 30-year (1981-2010) climatology, two named storms typically form in the Atlantic basin in October, with one becoming a hurricane. A major hurricane forms in October once every other year,” the NHC said.

The 7 tropical storms formed were Ana, Bill, Claudette, Erika, Grace, Henri and Ida; while the 4 hurricanes were Danny, Fred, Joaquin and Kate, for a total of 11 named storms. The two major hurricanes were Danny and Joaquin.

Amandala


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