So far, 397 municipalities in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil, have decreed a state of emergency in consequence of the drought that is affecting the region.
This is one of the worst droughts on record in the region. Besides losing their crops, farmers are without water for household use. Corn producers suffered the greatest damage.
At least 70% of what they planted won’t be harvested. Soybeans are second on the list, with losses amounting to 45%.
The president of the Rio Grande do Sul Federation of Agricultural Workers (Fetag-RG), Ezídio Vanelli Pinheiro, informed that 52 of the municipalities that have decreed a state of emergency lack drinking water. “The situation is very grave all over the state,” he said.
Drought hits parts of Brazil’s southern and northeastern regions
Meanwhile, in Brazil’s northeastern region, several municipalities in the state of Pernambuco’s semi-arid region are also considered to be critical because of drought.
According to João Amorim, who administers a cistern-building program (Programa Um milhão de Cisternas) for an umbrella group (Articulação no Semi-írido Brasileiro) (ASA), that provides assistance in the semi-arid region, there have been isolated rain showers in the area but not enough to improve the situation.
ASA, which congregates some 800 organizations that operate in the Brazilian northeast region and the northern part of the state of Minas Gerais, is working to mobilize families and organizations in the struggle to deal with the effects of the current drought.
Amorim explains that the cistern-building program seeks to provide each family in the region with a reservoir of 16,000 liters of water which should be sufficient to get them through eight months of drought.
“Last year we had four times as much rain as we expected. Unfortunately it came in a short period of time so we did not have sufficient storage space,” he says.
Since July 2003, with assistance from the Ministry of Social Development and Hunger Combat and a budget of some US$26 million (R$70 million), ASA has been able to build 60,000 cisterns. The target for 2005 is to build an additional 50,000 cisterns.