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Apr 12, 2000

Children taught to grow with mahogany

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In the past we have brought his story to the screen but transistors and electrons cannot replace the real sights, sounds and smells of Henry Fairweather’s mahogany plantation. Today some lucky school children and adults made the pilgrimage…and News Five’s Janelle Chanona joined them for a tour.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

In early February, News Five brought you the incredible story of Henry Fairweather, a 93-year-old man using his own money and land to create a legacy for himself and a future for others. Unfortunately, Fairweather’s dream of a money making mahogany plantation was on the brink of disaster as he found himself in dire financial straits. Today, cash flow continues to be a problem but by no means are things quiet out on the plantation. Students from Belize City and Dangriga went out to the farm today to meet the mahogany man himself. Coordinator for the Belize River Valley Development Program, Adalbert Tucker, says the meeting comes under the theme, “Children and Trees Growing Together, A Future for Both.”

Adalbert Tucker, Coordinator, BELRIV

“Well we thought that it was fitting to bring in the notion that children and trees can grow together into prosperity, that they need each other, can live together, that they are dependent on each other. And the whole theme of today, the story that was told showed that Mr. Henry Fairweather, by working in harmony in nature was able, for example, to not cut down the land but to plant back in the land what had been taken out. And to show that it would give you the prosperity and the peace and the harmony that we truly need as a nation.”

Lascelle Bowen, talking to students

“The mahogany tree is almost human, it is almost human. You look at me strangely, the mahogany tree; nature finds a way to protect it. We went to St. Paul’s one day and an old man Mr. Kelly told us that the mahogany tree is enchanted. What do you mean? He said that the mahogany people, the ones who work in the bush to cut the mahogany, you have hunters and they would go all day looking for mahogany trees and when they find a mahogany tree, they cut a small trail to it…”

Despite the heat of the morning, the students hit the trails with their tour guides to listen to tall tree tales. One student of Wesley College says today, she learnt the importance of reforestation.

Rashawn Engleton, 1st Former, Wesley College

“I think they should learn that the tree is very valuable to us and it’s not right for them to take away what nature has already put there and if they feel the need to take it away, then they should replace it.”

Janelle Chanona

“What do you hope the students walk away with?”

Bernard Bradley, Teacher, Wesley

“Well I am hoping that they will emulate Mr. Fairweather and follow in his footsteps because many times our students live in the city and it’s amazing just to come 22 miles out of the city and see the great work happening out here. So I hope that some of them will go home and think about it and perhaps when they come back out here and put some mahogany trees out here.”<

But if Fairweather doesn’t score some cash fast, his operation could find itself in serious trouble. There has been some investment by local NGOs but nothing close to the amount really needed. Mahogany might fetch a good price on the market right now but the wood isn’t “harvestable” until the 20th year. The oldest tree out on this ranch is only 14. BELRIV thinks it might have hit jackpot with the idea of nominating Henry C. Fairweather for an international award.

>Albert Tucker, Coordinator, BELRIV

“We have nominated him for the UN Sakawa prize because that prize also both a prestigious financial prize but even more importantly, recognition of his work at home and abroad. And so today again, the children were being asked to endorse in a symbolic manner, this nomination. And we hope that other members of government, society, civil society, will join to help this national effort. So today is the beginning we hope of a much more intense campaign of sharing this with people in the country.”

Mr. Fairweather wasn’t feeling very well today but he did say that it meant a great deal to him to see the children enjoying his creation. When we last interviewed him, Fairweather told us he will continue to put his trees in the ground.

Henry Fairweather

“I want to continue to plant as long I can continue. I want to leave a legacy behind. I want to be able to, when I get to St. Peter, give an account of my stewardship.”

Primary School Student

“We wish that he may not die, because he is a very good man for making these mahoganies so that we may have fresh air.”

Janelle Chanona for News Five.

At the last count, Henry Fairweather had invested half a million Belize dollars planting more 85,000 mahogany trees on a four hundred acre spread. His plantation is located off mile 22 on the Western Highway.

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