The drought has caused losses that exceed $ 72 million in Panama in the last two years, reported the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO).
The effects of the drought have been more intense in the so-called Arco Seco (Capira-Panama, Coclé, Herrera, Los Santos and part of Veraguas), according to the Panamanian agricultural authorities, said the world organization.
It added that during the 2015-2016 agricultural year some 5,230 hectares of corn were lost in Los Santos (center), while in another 281 hectares the rice seed did not germinate due to lack of water.
"Due to its effects on food production and access to resources, drought endangers the livelihoods and lives of millions of families," stressed FAO.
In January 2016 Panamanian authorities urged the population to make rational use of water because the country was facing one of the worst dry seasons in 100 years.
Panama will host information on the support of the new Agricultural Drought Surveillance System in Central America, which is currently administered and operated by Nicaragua, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today.
It is data collected through a tool created by FAO with which it can detect those agricultural areas where crops show signs of drought risk. This can help national authorities to make quick and timely decisions to deal with that phenomenon and its effects.
FAO developed the Agricultural Stress Index System (ASIS), a tool that allows monitoring at a satellite level vegetation and crop status globally to determine the impact and risk of agricultural drought and is now being implemented in the countries of the region.
Nicaragua has been a pioneer in the implementation of the ASIS and currently manages and operates the Agricultural Drought Surveillance System in Central America, designated by the Regional Committee on Hydraulic Resources (CRRH) of the Central American Integration System (SICA).
Panama will host a duplicate of the regional information and the state-owned Electricity Transmission Company of Panama (ETESA) will be the one that will safeguard the backup information of the new Agricultural Drought Surveillance System in Central America.
Those responsible for handling this information at ETESA received a visit from Nicaraguan technicians to be trained in the management of ASIS.
Nicaraguan technician Manuel Prado stressed that "the climatic aspects are not the only ones that affect the crops, it is necessary to study the soil conditions, the agricultural practices and other factors. Only with the climatological aspects, the tool cannot have the necessary robustness. Inter-institutional coordination is required as well as ensuring that information flows at the territorial level".
With the regional surveillance system, both national authorities and producers can implement drought mitigation activities in time, FAO said.
"In the agroclimatic community there are no borders, a climate phenomenon that affects Panama today will affect other countries tomorrow." Being able to learn about Nicaragua's experience allows us to know what challenges we face and to learn from those challenges that they have already overcome,” said Alcely Lau, the manager of Investigations and Climatic Applications of ETESA.
ETESA's training in the management of the drought monitoring system is a key step towards the implementation of the country-level system and the pilot plan to use ASIS as an indicator for the compensation assigned through agricultural insurance, the world body said in a public statement.
It also stated that this pilot plan brings together efforts of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) of Panama, the Institute of Agricultural Insurance (ISA), ETESA and FAO in the design of mitigation plans and emergency management to cope with the drought.