Anticipatory action before the arrival of El Niño

Recent information from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) alerts us to the high probability that an El Niño episode will be established between July and September 2023. This climatic phenomenon will bring with it a global increase in temperatures and will have significant effects on the weather and weather patterns around the world and of course in the dry corridor.

The Central American Dry Corridor (CSC), which includes the arid zones of the Dominican Republic, constitutes a region highly vulnerable to climate change. It extends from the lowlands of the Pacific coast to the central foothills of Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guanacaste in Costa Rica and the Dry Arc of Panama.

The arid zones of the Dominican Republic correspond mostly to the territories close to the border with Haiti.

In the Dominican Republic, the CSC has a significant impact. As part of this eco-region, we experience periods of drought or intense rains, aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon.

Although up to now we have not experienced the atmospheric effects of El Niño in the country, since the beginning of the year we have suffered a considerable reduction in rainfall and high temperatures, which has directly impacted the availability of water for human consumption and agricultural uses, generating loss of crops, death of livestock and intensification of forest fires. These vulnerabilities are accentuated in small island developing states.

People who depend on agriculture and rural livelihoods are the most affected in social, economic and environmental terms, with serious implications for the food and nutrition security of families. Given the limited ability to access risk management options, most rural households face the impacts of extreme weather events, such as severe droughts, floods, and hurricanes, through extreme response mechanisms, such as reduced intake of food, the sale of assets, the employment of family labor and even migration.

It is crucial that we take anticipatory and adaptive measures against the arrival of El Niño. The current situation offers us an opportunity to seek solutions and promote public policies that mitigate the severe impacts of this phenomenon.

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In this sense, it is encouraging to see that the Dominican Government is already implementing some recommendations from the FAO World Information and Warning System Report, such as monitoring climate variability and strengthening the early warning system for droughts and climatic events, the review of the procedure for basin governance and, something very important, the creation of agroclimatic technical committees that will facilitate decision-making in advance.

Likewise, the strengthening of national capacities for the control and prevention of forest fires is highlighted, actions that are being carried out by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, with the technical assistance of FAO.

It is necessary to advance in the implementation of anticipatory action protocols for droughts, the dissemination of early warnings to producers, the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, investment in irrigation technologies, the distribution of drought-resistant seeds, sanitary management and livestock nutrition and forest fire prevention

In addition, it is important to study how possible new rainfall patterns would affect crop growth, to identify cases in which water stress can significantly affect food production yields. Just as we could adjust the agricultural calendar in the face of a changing climate.

At the global level, greater commitment and resource allocation is needed to finance and implement these measures. It is crucial that countries comply with the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement, including financing for developing countries, with the aim of mitigating climate change, strengthening resilience and improving adaptive capacity.

The implementation of these initiatives will allow us to stay one step ahead and adopt preventive and resilient measures to protect the future of our rural communities, guarantee food security and promote the sustainable transformation of agri-food systems.

It’s time to act against drought before it happens. Let us base ourselves on scientific forecasts and ancestral knowledge, through alliances between the Government, academia, civil society, unions, companies and communities. Every action we take counts and brings us closer to a safer and more sustainable future.

Every action counts!

—Rodrigo Castaneda Sepulveda

FAO Representative in the Dominican Republic

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