Thursday, October 21, 2010

(What's that got to do with) The Price of Beans

For a lot of people living in Nicaragua, the past few months have been a little rough.  This rainy season has been unusually wet and the level of Lake Managua has risen to its highest level in many decades -- higher even than levels after the infamous Hurricane Mitch.  This has spelled disaster for hundreds of families living along the lakeshore who have been flooded out of the homes and are currently living in government-provided housing. 

Sadly, nearly 70 people have died as a result of the rains and the flooding, including 5 Red Cross workers who were caught in a flash flood crossing a river.

The rains have also helped to destroy a good portion of the local harvest of red beans -- a staple food for virtually every Nicaraguan (and us!).  The bad harvest, combined with a controversial sale of red beans to El Salvador, has caused the market price to double in the past few weeks and has put beans out of reach for some poorer families.  President Ortega even got himself in hot water when he suggested that people substitute green peas in traditional Nica dishes (blasphemy!).

For me, its been another reminder that many, many people in this world live perched on the brink and for them disaster doesn't always come in the form of a (telegenic, dramatic) earthquake or tsunami, but rather from a small flexing of market forces that wealthier people probably don't even notice.  Anyway, the past few weeks have been hot and dry and reportedly the lake level is going back down again; hopefully those families will be able to return home soon and cook some dinner.

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