Water related problems created in the SJRB by climate
Productive activities in the southern sector concentrate on ranching
and agriculture, principally palm heart, banana, ornamentals, pineapple,
and irrigated crops such as vegetables and watermelon. In April
and May of 1998 the effects of El Niño were evident in the form
of a prolonged drought that caused losses that included:
- 2000 head of cattle due to the lack of food and water despite
the distribution to small producers of 60 tons of green banana,
75 tons of pineapple byproduct, and 50 tons of green forage. Early
in 1998, the smaller producers found themselves without the means
to keep their herds alive, nearly 4% of their herds died; the
starving animals could not produce enough milk for their calves
and diseases began to appear. Further, it became necessary for
both livestock and humans to use the same water to the endangerment
of the human population.
- Beans: Up to 85% of the harvest was lost during the cropping
cycles of 1996-1997 and 1997-1998—an important loss since the
basin generates 60% of Costa Rica’s national production. the losses
were caused by a combination of heavy rainfall followed almost
immediately by an El Niño drought . Normally the harvest produces
0.7 metric tons/hectare but in 1997, the figure fell to 0.4 metric
tons/hectare. Then, during the drought, 100% of the harvest was
lost in some areas.
- Corn harvest was 2,522,145 quintals for 1996 and1,826,916 quintals
for 1997, a loss of 695,229 quintals. Harvest dropped 169,432
quintals because of the drought of 2001.
- A similar situation took place in 2001, when these yelded 169,4322
quintals less corn in the Northern sector in comparison to 2000.
Eventually the cause was blamed on the unpredicted drought during
- Palm heart: Most of the production of palm hearts comes from
small plots of between 1 and 5 has. Cultivation of palm hearts
in this sector is marginal, however, and often suffers from a
scarcity of moisture and significant losses occurred during the
1998 El Niño caused drought.
- Roots and Tubers: Manioc, Yapee, Chinese potato, and a few others
are cultivated in the region on small plots. Because of the 1998
El Niño episode, 125 ha were lost to drought.
- Oranges: Citrus is now a major non-traditional product in the
SJRB (3,000 ha 1986 and 11,000 ha in 1997). Large national and
international companies generated the increase. Again, because
of the 1998 drought, 680,000 boxes of oranges (15-25% of the total
harvest) were not processed and, in the following year, there
was far less flowering.
- Ninety-eight percent of the pasture is in natural grass and
“rattan,” a species that is very susceptible to prolonged dry
periods; 2% are planted with improved grasses. All have suffered
from drought and fire and, when weakened, by disease and insects.
The 1998 losses amounted to approximately 54,668 ha belonging
to 1,809 producers.
- It is estimated that 29.5% of the population of Costa Rica was
directly affected by El Niño in 1997-98. Of these, 0.5% had to
be evacuated and the remaining 29% suffered economic losses. Further
direct effects were in damaged infrastructure (wells, drains,
roads, buildings, bridges, docks, vehicles, etc.). In Costa Rica
losses from the 1997-1998 El Nino were 700 million colons not
including losses due to unemployment, sincelarge ranchers and
farmers laid off their workers, and small producers lost their
properties due to problems with refinancing, loan increases, resource
sell-off, and loan extensions.