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Mexico withers under worst drought in 71 years

Some 2.5 million Mexicans are affected by this extreme drought, which could cause widespread hunger for years to come.

Farmworker Juan Manuel Ramirez in San Luis de la Paz, Mexico, takes a break from irrigating dry land. A drought is affecting agriculture in the state of Guanajuato, one of the biggest growers of produce in the country. Since October 2010, there has been no significant rainfall.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

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Odon Leon has grown vegetables in San Luis de la Paz for 50 years, planting tomatoes, peppers, and onions. He says the arid community is fortunate to have wells they can use to water crops, but the water is getting scarcer amid Mexico's worst drought in 71 years. This year, Mr. Leon could only irrigate half of what he usually does, meaning his water-dependent onions suffered: The harvest was a fifth of what it usually is, the lowest ever.

"We are not alone," says Leon. "All of us are experiencing low harvests." Food production has gone down by 40 percent across Mexico because of the drought, according to the National Confederation of Peasants.

Leon is one of 2.5 million Mexicans affected by an extreme bout of dry weather across two-thirds of Mexico's states. Humanitarian workers say that if this year's rainy season, which typically begins at the end of spring, is equally dry, some might struggle to grow food and feed their families for another two years.

"In some parts of the country this has grown to be a bigger issue than even security," says Alejandro Aboytes, a farmer in Guanajuato and former president of a local producers group. "It is hardest for those who must rely on the rain to grow food. They cannot grow anything, so it means they don't eat."

Mexico's drought gained international attention after rumors spread across social media that members of an indigenous group, the Tarahumara of Chihuahua State, were committing mass suicides because they couldn't feed their families. The Tarahumara, featured in the book "Born to Run," are famous for their long-distance running.


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