“It’s becoming so unusual, it’s almost certainly climate change,” said Dr. Edwin J. Castellanos, dean of the Research Institute at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, a university in Guatemala City, and one of Central America’s leading scientists in the field of climate change.
Climate change is rarely the sole factor in the decision to migrate. Violence and poverty are prime drivers, but climate change can be a tipping point, farmers and experts say.
“Small farmers are already living in poverty; they’re already at the threshold of not being able to survive,” Mr. Castellanos said. “So any changes in the situation may push them to have enough incentives to leave.”
The outlook for the region seems bleak. Reduced yields of coffee and subsistence crops like corn and beans could significantly increase food insecurity and malnutrition. By some predictions, the amount of land suitable for growing coffee in Central America could drop by more than 40 percent by 2050.
The number of coffee producers in the area where Mr. Vicen lives has dropped by a quarter in the past decade — to about 9,000 from about 12,000 — partly because of pressure from climate change, said Marlon Danilo Mejía, the regional coordinator for the Honduran Coffee Institute, an industry trade group.
A vast majority are small producers, managing less than about nine acres each, he said.