SEATTLE, Washington — The caravan of migrants traveling from Central America to the U.S. border seeking asylum has garnered international coverage. But, what is often not addressed in the media coverage is much more important. What are the causes of the caravan and this flood of refugees from Central America? There are two main issues that have been the catalyst for the caravan: gang violence and climate change. Together, these issues have created the perfect storm, forcing impoverished people from countries, such as Honduras, to flee their homes.
Honduras is among the most fiscally unequal countries in Latin America. According to AP News, 5.5 million people in Honduras (almost 75 percent of the population) live in poverty with 20 percent of Hondurans living in extreme poverty. Investigating the effects of violence and food insecurity due to climate change can help explain this persistent poverty in Honduras.
Gangs in Honduras
In Honduras, gangs control many of the institutions traditionally managed by the state. As a result, reporting conflict to police has very little impact and violence is widespread. In fact, AP News reported that many young Hondurans are fleeing their homes because gangs threaten to kill the teenage boys who refuse to join and threaten to sexually assault the teenage girls who refuse to be their girlfriends.
The threat of violence combined with a lack of alternative opportunities leads many Hondurans to make the difficult choice between joining such gangs or fleeing the country. This is a contributing factor to the causes of the caravan of migrants to the United States. This issue is worsened when traditional jobs in Honduras, such as farming, become economically unsustainable due to climate change.
Climate Change and Food Insecurity
The Honduran economy is largely dominated by farming; therefore, extreme changes in temperature and rainfall can be detrimental to the production of coffee and maize, Honduras’s main crops. In a report by The Guardian, Robert Albro, a Latin America researcher from American University, noted that coffee crops do not recover quickly, and the subsequent loss of many coffee crops has been extremely harmful to small-scale farmers.
Thus, the rising temperature and unpredictable weather caused by climate change have intensified food insecurity in Honduras, and hunger has led to many farmers and their families fleeing the country. Therefore, food insecurity has emerged as one of the central causes of the caravan of migrants fleeing their homes to seek refuge in the United States.
In fact, the 2017 Climate Risk Index ranked Honduras as the number one country most vulnerable to climate change from 1995-2016. The World Bank estimates that, by the year 2050, there could be as many as 3.9 million climate refugees from Mexico and Central America alone. However, organizations such as the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) are working to finance climate change reduction projects before the effects of environmental degradation become irreversible.
Reducing the Effects of Climate Change
CABEI’s purpose is to promote social equality through economic aid, and it has focused on that issue through environmental protection and renewable energy projects. From 2012-2017, the bank financed renewable energy projects that provided 2,000 megawatts of energy, an amount equivalent to 38 percent of the installing capacity, for all of Central America.
CABEI placed such an emphasis on reaching social equality through environmental aid between 2010-2014 that 67 percent of all its projects were focused on climate change solutions. This resulted in a reduction of more than 25 million tons of harmful emissions and a $2 billion reduction in the importation of hydrocarbons. Hondurans may be able to find a life of safety and prosperity with greater international aid and financial access to energy alternatives.
With the element of climate change being addressed in Central and South America, the governments must now weed out corruption and do something about the gang threats that plague their citizens. Honduras is a good representation of the main issues that serve as causes to the caravan of migrants heading towards the United States. In order to truly affect change, something must be done to help the countries being affected to overcome their difficulties.