A fisherman walks across the dry bed of a branch of the Amazon River, near the Porto Praia Indigenous community. Tefé, Amazonas, Brazil.
2024 Photo Contest, South America, Singles

Drought in the Amazon


Lalo de Almeida

for Folha de São Paulo
13 October, 2023

A fisherman walks across the dry bed of a branch of the Amazon River, near the Porto Praia Indigenous community. Tefé, Amazonas, Brazil.

In 2023, the Amazon basin experienced its most intense drought since record keeping began, more than 120 years ago. The drought affected between 1,5 and 2 million square kilometers, about 20% of Brazil's territory, impacting some 600,000 people.

Both global heating (exacerbated by deforestation of the Amazon) and the El Niño weather phenomenon (the periodic warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean) contributed to the drought. According to analysis by World Weather Attribution, global heating made drought 30 times more likely in the region, drove extreme high temperatures, and contributed to lower rainfall.

The drought impacted Indigenous, rural, and river communities the most, due to their dependency on subsistence farming, natural fresh water, and the import of goods by river. Extreme drought makes their lives unviable. With few roads, people and goods move around the region by waterway. Children go to school and the elderly access health services by boat or canoe. Rivers also connect communities to urban centers, supply drinking water, and fish to eat. 

Some 158 riverside villages in the Tefé region were left stranded as waterways linking them to bigger towns dried up. Stocks of basic food items and medications dropped significantly.
Porto Praia, home to the Ticuna, Kokama and Mayoruna people, has no road access and is normally reachable only by river. The drought meant that residents had to walk for kilometers along the dry riverbed to reach their homes. This photograph captures the gravity of the global environmental crisis and drought in the Amazon in one moment.

Lalo de Almeida has spent a decade documenting environmental, social, and indigenous issues in the Amazon.

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Lalo de Almeida
About the photographer

Lalo de Almeida (b. 1970) is a photographer based in São Paulo, Brazil. Having studied photography at the Instituto Europeo di Design in Milan, Italy, he began working as a photojournalist for small agencies covering daily news.  Upon returning to Brazil, he joined the newspaper Folha de São Paulo where he...

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Jury comment

This image encapsulates the undeniable reality of the environmental crisis and drought in the Amazon. Organic and captured at the perfect moment, its composition powerfully conveys the gravity of the situation. Standing alone, it serves as a powerful representation of the challenges facing the Amazon and their global effects.