Chihuahua: Where the rain doesn't fall any more

July 12th, 2012 by
Categories: Mexico

Gorged to bursting point, the vulture watches impassively as the twister whips a column of dust past the sun-parched remains of cattle dotting the barren field. If there were such a thing as a textbook image of drought, then this could well be it.

Wracked by a savage drug conflict that has claimed thousands of lives, the last thing northern Mexico needed was a "natural" disaster to compound its woes. But now the region's beef herds are being ravaged by the worst drought on record – one which scientists are linking to climate change. Eighteen of the country's 32 states are affected.

No rain means no pasture and here in Chihuahua, an estimated 350,000 cows have died in the past 12 months, costing ranchers around 2.4bn pesos (£110m). Only the vultures, it seems, are happy.

Ismael Solorio is the third generation to run his family's ranch, only a few hours' drive from the Texas border. But now, four years after inheriting the herd of 200 cows, the 24-year-old is desperate.

So far this year, 26 of his animals have died from starvation. He estimates he has another six weeks for the rains to come in time to save the rest of his weakened herd. "It's a disaster," he says bitterly. "It never used to be like this. I have already had to sell 10 this year. They were so skinny I had to buy in pasture to put some meat on their bones, but it was that or watch them die. If it doesn't rain in the next month and a half, then the decision is made for me. I will have to cut my losses and sell them all."

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