After a major drought descended on the region over a year ago, the two rivers which feed the lake were reduced to a trickle. The body of water that was once a major source for local fishing is now completely dry, dotted only with abandoned fishing boats and clam shells, AFP reported Monday.
"We have no more money coming in, nowhere to work. Our hopes for eating fish or supporting our families, that came from the lake," the 56-year-old Juan Guerra, who has lived by the lake for his whole life, told AFP.
The disappearance of a once-rich body of water and source of livelihood is another visible indicator of the heavy toll climate change is taking on people in Central America. The region, known as the “dry zone,” is among the hardest hit regions by the rapid changes in weather patterns resulting from climate change in recent years.
Apart from damaging delicate ecosystems in the region, changes in weather patterns have significantly affected food security in the region. According to the World Food Program, Guatemala has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, at 47 percent. Between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, nearly 3.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and 1.6 million live in a state of moderate to severe food insecurity, according to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
"Climate change is really affecting the lives and future of these countries and those of our children in Central America," said Hector Aguirre, coordinator of Mancomunidad Trinacional, to AFP.
Groups like Mancomunidad Trinacional, along with funding from the European Union, have attempted to mitigate some of the effects climate change has had on food security in the region by promoting agricultural diversity.
However, continued drought and the death of Lake Atescatempa illustrates the limits of such efforts, and the urgent need to curb emissions at a global level. The failure to do so will continue to harm livelihoods of communities dependent on now damaged ecosystems.