Bad policy, hungry mouths

Food insecurity in Honduras looks set to worsen.

Food insecurity in Honduras is driven by multiple factors including a critical lack of land suitable for agricultural development. Land that is in use already is highly exposed to adverse climate change conditions. A region of the country known as the ‘dry corridor’ is seriously affected by climactic cycles where crops including corn, beans and sorghum can be lost to severe drought or torrential rains.  

An agricultural engineer and government consultant in Honduras explained, “Corn has risen almost 20% in its international price which affects the food of Latin American countries like Honduras and that is a terrible imbalance for vulnerable economies. That is why the migration of Hondurans heading north is understandable.”

“Corn has risen almost 20% in its international price which affects the food of Latin American countries like Honduras and that is a terrible imbalance for vulnerable economies.”

An agricultural engineer and government consultant, Honduras

Low cumulative rainfall in 2021 due to below-average rainfall in October and November 2021 and the pandemic-related crisis are the two main reasons for worsening food insecurity now and in the coming months in Honduras, especially in the country’s dry corridor, where the poorest families will likely need humanitarian assistance. 

Although corn production is likely to decline by 3% compared to the average of the last five years, the expected 60% decline in sorghum production will significantly impact agricultural livelihoods. In addition, the World Bank has reported that 32% of the labour force lost or quit their jobs due to the pandemic-related disruptions. 

At the political level, gridlock in Congress and widespread distrust in public institutions would challenge the new government and hinder its poverty reduction measures. UN agencies recommend expanding the scope and quality of national school feeding programmes, providing emergency assistance to the most vulnerable and produce food and extend the duration of food aid and cash transfers – ideas which new president Xiomara Castro favours.  

The Ukraine crisis has significantly affected import dynamics. The agricultural engineer explained, “Cereals are predominantly imported from the US and even from Brazil, to a much lesser extent from the countries in conflict today, however, the high prices of grains that the world market underpinned have an influence and that is bad news for our country and more because of the exchange rate.”   

“…the high prices of grains that the world market underpinned have an influence and that is bad news for our country [Honduras] and more because of the exchange rate.”

An agricultural engineer and government consultant, Honduras

The Castro administration could take a more innovative approach to the challenge. “Microcredits, review and give way to formality in small property, giving legal certainty to each producer and especially to millions of women who work in the field. The National Food Sovereignty Programme not only works to ensure better seed quality but also resistance to diseases of strategic crops and greater efficiency, but also a strong importance to the use of water and respect for the environment,” explains the agricultural engineer.  

Political ramifications persist. Leftist political figures accused the previous administration of handing over too much land to “foreigners”, in relation to the development of Employment and Development Zones (“Zede”) whilst doing too little to help the country’s farmers. Food insecurity in Honduras has also fomented a more violent reaction – disputes between farmers and landowners have intensified in recent months. Confrontations have left dozens of agricultural workers dead.  

Could technology provide a way forward? “Of course, technology in agriculture needs to be better connected with environmental care and better fertilisers. Technology is on the way to greater efficiency, but also to provide better agricultural products, taking care of production cycles and the natural wear and tear of the land, which, together with the threat of climate change, are great challenges for Honduras and the world”, added the agricultural engineer.  

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