Hungarian farmers battle 'historic' drought

STORY: Hungarian horse-breeder Andras Eordogh wanted to keep these foals for his farm, but severe drought means he can't grow enough fodder to feed his stable.

He loves teaching local children to ride his young horses, but this year, he'll have to sell them.

"I have been farming here for nearly three decades and I cannot remember such a severe drought, when we had so little rain. And the problem is that 2018 was when we last had a good rainy year and the dikes were filled with water and we had good yields. Since then the situation has kept getting worse. Now I can say we've never had such a difficult situation, ever."

The farming region known as Homokhatsag, or Sand Ridge, lies between two main rivers - the Danube and the Tisza.

It's a key area for corn, grain, and sunflowers and is vulnerable to climate change, experts say, because it sits higher than the rivers and its sandy soil dries out fast.

This lake in the village of Jaszszentlaszlo, where many locals swam as children, dried up years ago.

Five years ago, the mayors and farmers of nearby villages blocked hundreds of kilometers of communist-era water channels crisscrossing their land.

It was illegal and increased the risk of flooding, but the farmers say they had no choice.

This year, winter and spring rains mostly failed - so all but one ran dry anyway.

Gergely Lajko returned to Jaszszentlaszlo with his wife three years ago and bought a farm and three horses.

They planned to start breeding sheep, pigs and chickens this year but the drought could put their plans on hold.

"People here keep saying that maybe we should look up what thrives in the desert. Arabic breeds of horses? Kiwi fruit instead of potato? Camels? These are our sour jokes these days. It is sad that these may be the alternatives."

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