TEUSTEPE, Nicaragua: Nicaragua may boast a southern lake that is Central America’s biggest body of freshwater, but in the center of the country years of drought have taken a severe toll. “This is like looking for gold,” Pedro Membreno, a 55-year-old resident said as he dug into the rocky earth near the town of Teustepe, one of 33 communities in a parched corridor. His hole was already 15 meters (50 feet) deep, and still there was no water. He and hundreds of other rural dwellers are desperately searching for aquifers, underground layers of water in permeable rock. But many have simply dried up under the drought that has dragged on for three years now. Nicaragua’s central region has witnessed an absence of rain and temperatures hovering around 36 to 39 degrees centigrade (97 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit). Conditions worsened further over the past year with El Nino, the cyclical climatic phenomenon that warms the eastern Pacific, heating up and drying out much of Central America. The change accelerates deforestation and prompts farmers to divert scarce water for their crops.