It is a natural phenomenon, characterized by the delay in rainfall or its irregular distribution, which ends up harming the growth or development of agricultural plantations.
The problem is neither new nor exclusive to the Brazilian Northeast. It occurs frequently, presents a relative frequency and can be predicted in advance. The drought affects Brazil, as well as can affect Africa, Asia, Australia and North America.
In the Northeast, according to historical records, the phenomenon appears at intervals close to ten years, and may last for periods of three, four and, exceptionally, up to five years. Droughts have been known in Brazil since the 16th century.
According to Fashionissupreme, rains in the northeastern semi-arid region usually occur from December to April. When they do not arrive until March, it is a sign that there will be a drought. Often it doesn’t rain for two or three years; in exceptional cases, the lack of rain can last up to five years, as happened from 1979 to 1984.
Drought manifests itself with different intensities. When there is an accentuated deficiency in the amount of rain in the year, less than the minimum needed by the plantations, the drought is absolute. In other cases, when rains are just enough to cover leaves but do not allow for the normal development of agricultural crops, green drought occurs.
These climatic variations affect the growth of plantations and end up causing a serious social problem, since a significant number of people living in the region truly live in extreme poverty.
Drought is the result of the interaction of several factors, some external to the region (such as the process of wind circulation and marine currents, which are related to atmospheric movement, preventing the formation of rain in certain places), and others internal (such as low-strength vegetation, topography and high soil reflectivity).
Many causes have been pointed out, such as deforestation, temperature in the region, amount of rainfall, topographic relief and sunspots. It is also worth mentioning the “ El Niño ” phenomenon , which consists of an increase in the temperature of the waters of the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Peru and Ecuador.
Human action has also contributed to aggravate the issue, as the constant destruction of natural vegetation through fires leads to the expansion of the semi-arid climate to areas where it did not previously exist.
Drought is an ecological phenomenon that manifests itself in the reduction of agricultural production, causes a social crisis and becomes a political problem.
The most obvious consequences of the great droughts are hunger, malnutrition , poverty and migration to urban centers ( rural exodus ).
Generally, the problem of drought is often exaggerated to such an extent that most people think it is the biggest cause of poverty in the Northeast. In fact, the main problem in the Northeast is of a social order and originates not in the scarcity or lack of rain, but in the unequal distribution of land and the income generated in the region. By transforming the drought into the great culprit for the northeastern ills, the so-called “drought myth” is being created.
Simultaneously, there is the much talked about but never eradicated “drought industry”. It is a set of expedients or procedures of powerful northeastern groups that use the phenomenon and above all the myth of drought to reap government benefits for their own benefit.
The issue of drought is not limited to the lack of water. Strictly speaking, there is no lack of water in the Northeast. There is a lack of solutions to solve its poor distribution and the difficulties in using it. It is “necessary to demystify the drought as a destabilizing element of the Northeastern economy and social life and as a source of high expenses for the Union … to demystify the idea that drought, being a natural phenomenon, is responsible for the hunger and misery that dominate in the region , as if these elements were only present there”.
Dramatically feeding the news about the drought in the media, these groups are able to obtain funds and aid from the government to help regions affected by the lack of rain.
However, government aid benefits members of such groups far more than the population actually hit by the drought. By controlling the distribution of the money received, farmers and influential politicians – councilors, deputies, etc. – manipulate the help to be given, directing it to people and places from which they can obtain advantages or favors: godchildren or relatives, electoral strongholds, etc. At the same time, under the argument that they were ruined by the drought, entrepreneurs not only fail to pay their bank debts, but also get new loans under special conditions.
With regard to attempts to solve the problem, the government is influenced to achieve major works, such as dams and huge dams, which consume formidable public funds. Most of these funds go to the payment of construction companies, often directly or indirectly linked to people who are part of the dominant regional groups. In addition, the grandiose works usually only benefit large farmers and not those who really suffer from drought – small producers. When small, the dams built by the government are built on land owned by large farmers, who are part of the groups favored by the “drought industry”.
Under these conditions, it is not surprising that the problem of drought is not resolved. Its effective solution would overthrow the petty interests of powerful groups, which take advantage of the poverty and suffering of thousands of people from the Northeast.
The tragedy of the drought covers the vested interests of those who have political influence or are economically powerful, who seek to perpetuate the problem and prevent effective action from being taken. The idea of solving the problem of water in the semi-arid region was basically the guideline drawn up by the Federal Government for the Northeast and prevailed, at least, until mid-1945. At the time when the Brazilian Constitution of 1946 established the reserve in the budget of the Government of 3% of tax collection for expenses in the Northeast region, a new posture different from the hydraulic solution in the anti-drought policy was born, abandoning the emphasis on works in function of the more rational use of the resources.
As emergency actions, there has been an appeal for the distribution of food, through food baskets and work fronts, created to provide services to the unemployed during the period of drought, aimed at the construction of roads, dams and bridges.
It is not possible to eliminate a natural phenomenon. Droughts will continue to exist. But it is possible to live with the problem. The Northeast is viable. Its biggest problems come more from the action or omission of men and from the conception of society that was implemented, than from the droughts of which it is a victim.
Solutions imply the adoption of an official policy for the region, which respects the reality in which the northeastern people live, providing them with conditions of access to land and work. The issue of managing the guidelines adopted cannot be forgotten, given the diversity of bodies that deal with the matter. Structural and concrete measures are needed so that the dramas of droughts do not continue to be experienced.