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Oct 16, 2014

World Food Day Observed in Belize

Around the world today, World Food Day was celebrated. In Belize at the ITVET, activities took place to highlight the importance of family farming which is a main component of this year’s theme: Family Farming, Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth. Duane Moody joined in the activities.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Various stakeholders and partners in the agricultural industry gathered at the ITVET Compound to celebrate World Food Day under the theme, “Family Farming, Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.” At the opening ceremony held today, Chief Agriculture Officer, Roberto Harrison, says that the focus is on the importance of family farming.

 

Roberto Harrison, Chief Agriculture Officer

Roberto Harrison

“Around five hundred million of the world’s five hundred and seventy million farms are run by families. They are the main caretakers of our natural resources. As a sector, they form the largest employer, supply more than eighty percent of the world’s food in terms of value and are often the main producers of fresh food and prosper in varied poultry and pig production. In Belize, based on the agricultural sector of 2011, there is an estimated nineteen thousand two hundred and fifty-three farms with forty-seven point seven percent or nine thousand two hundred and two farmers producing in under three acres. Officially, agriculture employs twenty point two percent of the employed population or eight percent of the population and contributes fourteen point one percent of the GDP based on the 2013 figures.”

 

With those figures, Harrison says that the total value of agriculture production is in the range of six hundred and fifteen million dollars with three hundred and thirty million dollars in exports. This translates to twenty-three percent of the foreign exchange earned for Belize. Statistics, however, show that these farmers are part of the insecure population in terms of income generated. So what is the ministry doing to address the issues affecting farmers?

 

Jose Alpuche

Jose Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Agriculture

“Our extension services of the ministry with agriculture and cooperatives is being challenged with the transfer of technology to farmers, building capacity in the production of non-traditional crops, promote record keeping for the purpose of calculation of cost production and promote post harvest technology and proper storage. We have seen excellent results from a project in some Toledo villages where post harvest handling and storage of their beans and corns was introduced. The farmers are now asking for more and before year end, we should be opening an agricultural outreach station in Jalacte. A project for construction of proper storage facility for onions is about to commence in Orange Walk and Corozal Districts. These storage facilities will decrease the post harvest losses being experienced by the farmers, translating to more produce, better quality and better income for farmers.”

 

In growing the efforts to sensitize the public on the importance of World Food Day, the Ministry of Agriculture extended the theme to include “Accessible and Affordable Nutritious and Healthy Food for Belize.” At today’s ceremonies, several family farmers were honored for their work in the agricultural sector.

 

Clifford Martinez, Belize District Agriculture Coordinator

“What you will see is that family farmers received special recognition today and in continuance because this year is the year of family farming. Family farming contributes so much, a diversity of crops and food for our market and for our needs. And so the theme and the presentation that you’ll see today is blended, is well married. You will see how the crop production, you’ll see how the products in this country…you’ll see how that is transformed, where it came from. The farmers, producers will talk to you on what they are producing and how we could transform it.”

 

Today’s activities also included a fair that would see primary and high school students as well as the public learn more about the various aspects of agricultural produce and how it can promote healthy lifestyles. Clifford Martinez explains.

 

Clifford Martinez

Clifford Martinez

“We have a total of forty-six stalls presenting different agricultural products, different value added products and a food cook-off that will happen between the high schools displaying how food can be transformed into a dish that is more attractive to young people and to other members of society who are interested in nutritious and healthy food. It is revamping, it is reactivating that knowledge cause we are aware of it; we do know what is healthy. How we carry on ourselves is a different issue, but we do know what is healthy and this is the platform that we want to create. We want events like these that will improve our dialogue and showcase those that are active in producing and producing healthy foods. We want those like Cancer Society and the showcasing of what they do—like the Red Cross—and we want it to be highlighted and this opportunity to communicate that with each other. And we want to attract young people to see that that is an option not only for health conscious issues, but also as a livelihood and a career approach.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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