The above image from the Global Drought Monitor shows the extent of the drought worldwide as of August 2012. More than 152 million people are living in areas experiencing exceptional drought (the dark red areas), which is defined as “exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses; exceptional fire risk; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies.”
The orange colors mark areas where crop and pasture losses are “major” and fire risk is very high to extreme, so people living in those areas aren’t doing much better. On the map above, you can see the droughts that have been affecting large portions of the grain-growing regions in the northern hemisphere – central U.S., eastern Europe, central Russia.
Looking more closely at North America in the drought map shows not just the central U.S. in a drought, but also the eastern Canadian provinces and nearly all of Mexico and central America. The U.S. imports about $16 million worth of agricultural products from Mexico each year; about half of that is fruit and vegetable products. Drought in that region will adversely affect food prices in the U.S.
Russia is one of the major producers of cereal grains for the world. The drought hitting the north side of the Black Sea has destroyed much of the crop for this year. The recent rains in the area came too late. The drought in the central regions of Russia is also damaging a major agricultural area.
India has been afflicted with water mismanagement for years. No part of India is escaping the drought this year, causing disagreements between states over how much water goes where.
Droughts are natural and have been happening since the world began, but there are ways to alleviate the stress of droughts. Sound water management policies on the household, local, regional, national, and even international levels are an absolute necessity.
All images in this post courtesy of the UCL Global Drought Monitor