GUAYANILLA, PUERTO RICO — Pacing across the cracked earth of his family’s land as hot, dry winds shook the surrounding trees, 33-year-old Roberto Fernandez described how two years ofsevere drought has devastated the island.
“Last year, the pastures weren’t getting rain and weren’t able to regrow, and my livestock started getting hungry and sick,” he said. “When the animals don’t have enough food, it takes a toll on their defense system, and the tics took hold and started spreading disease. There were carcasses of adult cows everywhere. That’s when I understood the pretty shocking reality of the drought.”
Other farmers who bring produce to the organic market Fernandez set up in the nearby city of Ponce are also suffering. “Production has dwindled drastically,” he said. “We’re really deep into the problem now.”