Voices from the Frontlines: Fleeing the Climate

12 December 2019

Have you ever thought about what you would do if the climate changed the place where you live? When climate impacts hit, impacting your life and livelihood, you have to decide: stay or go. In the driest corridor of Central America, it has been years since rainfall catastrophically decreased.

When the El Niño and climate change made life unsustainable, Yensi Marisela and her husband decided to move to Tegucigalpa. There he found work, and she joined a factory in a special economic zone. Some time after, the son of one of her friends was murdered in a shootout. The insecurity caused by gang activity, cost of living, and the lack of dignified work meant Yensi returned home, while her husband stayed and sent money home.

The drastic change in rain patterns have ruined the harvest in the Dry Corridor, where 60% of people already live under the poverty line and rely on subsistence agriculture. This is a humanitarian crisis aggravated by climate change in which migration is often the only viable option. Migration often occurs within country borders or towards Costa Rica and El Salvador, and more recently, there are increased migration flows towards other international destinations. 

Studies on the gendered impact of climate change show an increased flow of female migrants toward Spain and the US as housekeepers. Others migrate towards urban centers and work in factories under harsh conditions, and some families migrate seasonally to harvest coffee beans; schools in Honduras have even adapted their calendars to accommodate student absences from December to March.

In El Salvador and Guatemala, climate migrants are largely men who migrate to cities to find work and send money back to their families; women at home must take on additional duties to take care of their families and farms. Not owning the land that they work on adds extra stress to the situation. Water wells have dried up, increasing the workload, and when these women participate in adaptation projects like seed banks, agricultural cooperatives, and water reserves, they are not consulted and often end up doing more work than before. The Gender Action Plan would support these women €“ this is one more reason to ensure it is unlocked here in Madrid.

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