Sicily’s Farmers Struggle as Water Shortage Threatens Livelihoods

Italy declared a state of emergency due to drought in Sicily a few months ago, impacting farmers and breeders the most. The lack of rainfall is causing significant challenges for livestock farmers and agricultural producers, who are essential to Sicily’s economy.

Donatella Vanadia, a vet and owner of an agricultural company, expressed concerns about the scarcity of water affecting animals’ ability to access the necessary water for their daily needs. Farms that have resorted to purchasing water are facing increased production costs and additional expenses for supplying water to the animals, putting the animals’ well-being at risk.

Moreover, the drought is impacting animal feed, with hay production expected to decrease by 60 to 70 percent this year. This shortage could lead to cows producing less milk, fewer offspring, and a potential increase in animals being sent for slaughter, ultimately threatening the closure of businesses.

The climate crisis has also affected olive oil production in Sicily. Italy was the second-largest global exporter of olive oil in 2022, but the abandonment of 30 million ancient olive trees due to climate change has led to a significant increase in prices. Olive oil producers like Tony Zappulla have experienced a sharp decline in production, attributing it to the worsening drought conditions.

Experts argue that both the climate crisis and negligence have contributed to the drought. The lack of maintenance of water storage tanks and irrigation networks has resulted in significant water loss over the years. The Italian government has allocated €20 million to address the drought emergency in Sicily, but farmers like Graziano Scardino believe that more substantial compensations are needed to mitigate the damages exceeding €1 billion.

The future of Sicily’s agriculture and economy hangs in the balance as farmers struggle to cope with the devastating impact of the water shortage. Immediate action and support from policymakers are crucial to ensure the survival of the farming community and prevent further environmental degradation in the region.