Business & Economy

Food insecurity, the other pandemic besetting Honduras

By German Reyes

Tegucigalpa, Dec 28 (EFE).- Food insecurity, which remains high in Honduras, is the other pandemic that must be dealt with by the new government that, headed by Xiomara Castro, will take the reins of power on Jan. 27, 2022.

That is the warning being given by analysts and the office of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

“Regarding food, we have a serious problem. A wave of hunger is coming that is moving around the planet. It’s already begun,” analyst Omar Andres Garcia Calderon told EFE in Tegucigalpa, noting that the food insecurity is being affected by the “country’s urbanization and the loss of being able to invest in agricultural products.”

He added that dealing with the problem in a country where “we need people to be able to get food into their homes” will be one of the important issues that Castro – who won the Nov. 28 presidential vote – will need to confront.

The problems of the peasantry will be dealt with by government directives at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with Castro’s Transition Commission, after the president-elect promised numerous changes to improve the living conditions of the country’s poorest citizens.

Honduras, with a land area of 112,492 square kilometers (some 43,240 square miles) and 9.5 million residents, has been facing serious food insecurity problems due to the lack of enough land for the peasantry, many of whom farm for a living, although they are often unable to grow their crops due to adverse natural phenomena, which have been exacerbated by ongoing climate change.

One of the regions hardest hit by such natural disasters is the so-called “Dry Corridor,” which includes portions of all of Honduras except for the north.

In these areas there are cycles in which production of crops like corn, beans and sorghum is lost to severe drought or torrential rains which wipe everything away, including infrastructure, as occurred in November 2020 with the passage of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, the damage from which is still having serious repercussions.

Garcia Calderon said that Honduras is suffering the consequences of handing the land over to “foreigners,” an allusion to the installation of Employment and Development Zones (Zede), while land is not being provided to potential Honduran farmers.

“The country has a very high agrarian debt and too much idle land, and a very underemployed population because they don’t have land,” emphasized the analyst.

Over the past 50 years, Honduras has suffered drastic changes in its agricultural production, like the program to devote thousands of hectares (a hectare is about 2.5 acres) to African palm cultivation, mainly in the north, to the detriment of corn and bean production, both of which are food staples for the country’s population.

On Oct. 16, World Food Day, the office of the WFP in Tegucigalpa said that the food insecurity problem in Honduras has almost doubled with 1.8 million people experiencing it before the Covid-19 pandemic and the Eta-Iota disaster in 2020 but 3.3 million people being affected now.

In addition, the same source said that as many as 4.4 million Hondurans might suffer from food insecurity by the end of 2021.

The situation is precarious for a country that is also suffering from the Covid pandemic, which began in March 2020 and so far has killed 10,400 people and resulted in some 379,000 infections, according to official figures. To that may be added the new threat of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has already been detected in Honduras, according to medical sources.

Leaders of peasant organizations are also lobbying for the new government to turn its attention to the countryside and to put an end to the confrontation that persists in some areas between peasants and landholders, another longstanding internal problem that has left dozens of agricultural laborers dead.

In Garcia Calderon’s opinion, many of the problems besetting Honduras in the economic and social realms can be resolved by guaranteeing the people “land, housing, food, work and transparency,” all of which he said the country lacks and which the new administration, which will govern from 2022 until 2026, should address.

If what the analyst is recommending can be implemented to alleviate the country’s problems, perhaps the majority of people in the countryside will not continue to flock to the cities, where many peasants have not found the well-being or the jobs that they’ve sought.

Garcia Calderon said that regarding jobs, many must be created but “with dignified salaries so that people can get out of poverty and a take-off of the middle class can occur.”

“If we’re going to have poor people selling ice cream (on the street), 30 years will pass and those people will still be selling ice cream. That’s not right, it’s detestable. We must give them opportunities with respect for life,” he said.

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