Another View: Changing climate hurts Honduran farmer

Another View: Changing climate hurts Honduran farmer

My name is Melecio Cantoral Gonzalez. I am 30 years old. I live with my parents, my wife and my two small children. We live in the community of Bella Vista, near Nueva Frontera in Honduras, in a small home made of adobe with a metal roof. It has a kitchen, a living room, and one small bedroom. My wife and I share our room with our children. Together with my family I farm a little more than 4 acres.

I walk about 30 minutes to get to the land I farm, which is on a steep slope. I grow mainly corn, red beans, and coffee. A couple of years earlier I started to plant other crops because of training I had received. I learned that I can’t support my family with just corn and beans and I learned other things, too, like how to use worms to make compost and how to better care for my livestock.

Two years ago my parcel looked like the Garden of Eden. This year, though, things were horrible. During the first planting, the weather didn’t cooperate, and our warm months were much too hot. Many days the temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The crops germinated, but when the corn started to tassel the rain didn’t come, so the crops just died on the stalks. Then we had strong winds that flattened the field.

It looked that the coffee harvest was going to be good, though, so even though we were disappointed that the corn and bean crops had failed, we thought that we’d be able to make up for it with a good coffee crop. Then the drought and heat suddenly changed to heavy downpours and colder temperatures. With the deluge and moisture also came a coffee rust disease, called la roya. At that point we started to lose hope, because without beans, corn or coffee, how were we going to have our daily bread? And we asked ourselves, “What can we do?”

We know that can’t just sit there with our arms crossed, so we started to look for other ways to care and provide for our families. I had planted other crops like cassava, plantains, taro root, and sweet potatoes that are a little more tolerant to the humidity and drought. Thankfully, this was enough to sustain my family.

Other families hadn’t planted those crops, though. I was thankful that I had something to share with my neighbors, and that I could encourage them and help others not feel to discouraged. In our churches and communities we do what we can to support the families. We do this because the Bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. But we are limited in what we can do.

We know that our traditional weather patterns are changing. The weather no longer lets our crops grow, but instead brings droughts, excessive rains, new crop diseases and more poverty. Some of us have four, five or six kids at home, and for the man of the house it is so difficult to wake up and hear your child say, “Daddy, I’m hungry,” and have nothing to give them that day. So many men have risked their lives for their families by migrating to look for work. They migrate because they are sad, and desperate, and there are few other options for them. Any father with hungry children would do the same to provide for their families.

I know things can be different, though. I believe that, with support and training, we can move forward. The farmers in my community and I want to keep trying new things, new ideas, and experiment with new ways of farming. We know that we aren’t going to be rich, but we’ll have enough to nourish our children. If we can do this, my neighbors and I won’t be worried sick about our little ones suffering from hunger, and using our energy planning of heading north. Instead, we’ll be able to dedicate ourselves to work our land and be able to provide our children’s daily bread ourselves.

MELECIO CANTORAL GONZALEZ is a farmer from Honduras, visiting the United States with Foods Resource Bank. Two years ago he received training thanks to Foods Resource Bank, Church World Service and their local partner CASM. 

View the original article as printed by the Des Moines Register

02/24/2015 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment