The Caribbean is suffering the worst drought seen in the region in five years, and weather forecasters expect the situation could intensify in the coming months and bring devastation for local farmers.
Meteorologists have predicted a strong El Niño effect will disrupt regular climate patterns this year, as the climatic phenomenon originating in the Pacific Ocean triggers floods, droughts, and other extreme conditions around the world.
In the Caribbean, El Niño is expected to produce a calmer hurricane season than usual, withholding much-needed rain for the region, parching farmers' crops, livestock, and water reservoirs across the region.
Among the hardest hit Caribbean islands are Puerto Rico, where drying water reservoirs are unlikely to be replenished given the dry forecast, and St. Lucia, where several agricultural crops are dying.
This week, the government of St. Lucia declared a national emergency over drinking water shortages, calling for water conservation and precautions to avoid contaminating precious water resources.
According to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Caribbean crop losses have already amounted to more than US$1 million as the agricultural sector faces a difficult growing season ahead.
Hot times! Drought declared in over 10 Caribbean countries... pic.twitter.com/fYzaar8yTS— Alison Kentish (@AlisonteleSUR) May 23, 2015
The Caribbean last suffered a serious drought in 2010, but climate experts predict this year's drought could be harsher if needed seasonal rains don't quench thirsty water sources.
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Caribbean governments have made an effort to invigorate the agricultural sector to increase local food security and food sovereignty, according to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, but difficult weather conditions continue to pose a major challenge for farmers in the region.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, water scarcity will impact food security for the majority of the world's population by 2050.