According to the UNHCR , Guatemala is the country with the tenth-highest number of applications for asylum worldwide; 10% of our partner families fall into this category. Countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are also partially encroached by the “Dry Corridor.” The “Dry Corridor” is a region in Central America that consists of a tropical dry forest. For most people, placing the words “tropical” and “dry” next to each other would sound counterintuitive due to the vibrant, biodiverse connotations that precede the word “tropical” and the harsh, barren illustration that the word “dry” conjures. Both assumptions are mostly true: the “Tropical Dry Forest” of Guatemala offers the greenery and biodiversity of a tropical forest in combination with the intermittent rain cycles of a desert.
These rain cycles are growing more and more unpredictable as the years progress, lengthening their dry seasons . For many Guatemalans, farming is the main–if not the only–way to secure food for themselves and their families. In fact, many families plan for their annual farming season, a season in which their crop yields (mainly beans and corn) must last them a full calendar year . During this farming season, rainfall is supposed to be consistent enough to cultivate a proper environment for the entire farming process, from seeding to harvest. However, because of the longer dry seasons and sudden floods, many families experience the loss of their crops with some families losing up to 75% of their harvest .
Changes seen in climate, weather, and regional temperature can have dramatic impacts on communities and crops. The United Nations World Food Program reports that in January 2019, 15% of people in the Dry Corridor said they had plans of migrating due to food insecurity . This number, however, is expected to grow as the effects of climate change continue to increase globally. In fact, the “Dry Corridor” makes up 45% of Guatemala and has grown 25-30% in the past decade .
Guatemala, in conjunction with governmental and non-governmental organizations like Catholic Relief Services and the United States Department of Agriculture, has worked hard to ensure Guatemalan families can expand their resilience threshold and avoid having to leave their home country due to climatic stressors . Unfortunately, the accepted definition for refugees and asylum seekers excludes families seeking to escape the Dry Corridor due to climate stressors . Advocates have pushed the UNHCR to expand the guidelines of what makes someone a “refugee” to include those displaced due to the effects of climate change.
Greenhouse gasses (GHG) are major drivers of global climate change and contribute to the dysregulation of natural weather patterns; a process actively intensifying the conditions of the Dry Corridor . It is imperative that the world’s highest GHG emitters – the United States, China, India, and the European Union – take serious steps toward meeting the goals outlined by the Paris Agreement . As of 2022, the previously mentioned nations are responsible for more than half of historical emissions of GHG and fall short of meeting the Paris Agreement . Finally, global authorities on migration must prepare for the estimated 200 million persons that will be displaced due to climate change by 2050 if a significant reduction of GHG emissions is not achieved .