2012-17: Historic drought in Brazil
Sertão is the most populated semiarid region in the world located in Northeastern Brazil comprising parts of 9 states. Since 2012 this region has undergone the hardest drought in the last 40 years. It has killed more than half of the region´s cattle herd to date. No government has ever taken really effective measures against this historic tragedy, even though severe droughts strike the region every 12 to 15 years—the last one was in 1998-1999—and moderate drought conditions are nearly always a problem.
I covered these two last severe drought periods and could realize some differences and similarities between them: Traveling in countryside, one will see a cistern which stores rainwater caught from rooftop besides almost every modest house, a rare scene in the nineties. It basically fulfills the water drinking, cooking and families demands in the months of water shortage, preventing the need for long walks for water, a common scene in the nineties. However, in a severe situation like that, they are frequently supplied with water provided by tanker trucks ( carros-pipas ), a “generosity” of local politicians. A great idea like the cisterns, a decentralized water supply infrastructure requiring simple and inexpensive technology, serving the purposes of the so-called drought industry. Paternalism has always been a dominant cultural trait in the region, both in the nineties, now and ever.
People from Sertão has always knew that aridity is the natural state of their homeland and that trying to soak it would be like "removing ice from the North Pole". So they have developed several means of coexistence with drought in spite of just waiting for the Government help, a behavior I could realize much more frequent now than before.
Brazil suffers historic drought