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Oct 14, 2011

World Food Day celebrated in bellies at Central Farm

Despite the wet conditions across the country, in the West, Central Farm was crowded with Belizeans as they trekked through mud and rains for the commemoration of World Food Day. Local producers of food set up shop on the grounds to promote and educate the Belizean public on the importance of local food production and healthy lifestyles. Celebrated under the theme ‘Food Prices- from Crisis to Stability’, the small producers and co-ops echo that ‘Agriculture is the way to go’. In addition to taste testing the products, our News Five team spoke with producers and livestock keepers at the event.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

With escalating climate change and spiraling food prices, the exportation to importation ratio remains one sided and there is an increasing need for more locally produced food. In celebration of World Food Day, the small producers emphasize the importance of local food in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Small businesses and cooperatives provide employment, income and a variety of local produce for the Belizean market:

Christopher Lowe

Christopher Lowe, Fruit A Plenty

“The main thing at the moment as far as I know is that we are the only producers of peanut butter in this country and this is just pure peanut butter, butter, just peanuts with a little bit of sea salt. Then we been producing the granola for years and that’s really nice too, because I been making that I been trying to develop a granola bar and it took me years of playing around to find it and accidentally I came up with this. I was making sweet one day with peanut butter and honey and it was a little sticky on account of a hot day, and I put some granola and voila, the granola bar. As a matter of fact, Francis Ford Coopola’s son, Roman loves the bar so we put their label on the bars and ship to all the resorts.”

Jasmine Lowe

Jasmine Lowe, Fruit A Plenty

“Well most people say it’s the best and it’s natural with only peanuts and sea salt and not really much, but the main product is the granola bar.”

Andrea Polanco

“Right. So is that your favorite?”

Jasmine Lowe

“Yes.”

Andrea Polanco

“So why is it your favorite?”

Jasmine Lowe

“It’s because it’s a mixture of both of them put together in one and it’s a good healthy snack because it gives you energy, satisfy the sweet tooth but can be addicting.”

Maximiliano Garcia

Maximiliano Garcia, Secretary, Cayo Quality Honey Producers

“Membership produce the honey and we buy it from them and the cooperative bottle it up and we are starting to distribute this year to the whole country.  We buy the honey from the membership at three dollars and thirty cents a pound, so when we retail it we make a good business for the cooperative. We are twenty eight members in the cooperative.  We have our bee keepers from Benque and Succotz, we have our beekeepers in Santa Familia, Bullet tree and Cristo Rey, so the membership is all scattered just in Cayo District.”

Meat and eggs are staples in the Belizean diet. An increase in egg consumption underscores the value and need for Belizeans to raise their own livestock.

Orlando Habet, Manager, Belize Poultry Association

Orlando Habet

“It is important especially that in Belize now know or hear that poverty rate is now at forty-four percent. The first thing that happens when people go into poverty is the effect on their nutrition because people cannot afford to buy food, but if they can afford to buy an egg to feed their children it is very important because it provides nutrition for the first half of the day. What we are saying is that the new research information shows egg keeps you full because it has very high quality protein and high quality energy.”

Jahta Caliz

Jahta Caliz, First Year Agriculture Student, UB

“Why it is important to raise your own food is to know what you’re consuming and you know everything that goes in your body affects you somehow. So it’s better to always raise your own and know the importance of what they do.”

Andrea Polanco

“It also makes you self-sufficient you know, you have more; it’s cheaper as well?”

Jahta Caliz

“Yeah, yeah basically it helps you financially; it helps you save more money.”

With an abundance of fruits and vegetables, preservation is the way forward. A group of fifteen women from the Cayo District turned a home-base idea into a growing business:

Amparito Itza

Amparito Itza, Western Women Agro-processing Association

“Well we do preservation of the food. Whenever there is abundance of food, for example when the tomatoes are cheap, the farmers sometimes don’t know what to do with it. So we preserve it and we have all around during the year, when Christmas when we need to do our tamales, we have it in our bottles.”

Andrea Polanco

“Okay. So what are some of the fruits that you process?”

Amparito Itza

“We process mangoes, pineapple, craboos, a variety of fruits we do stew pumpkin, stew papaya. We also do food, for example during natural disasters we have beans, we have meatballs, and we have chicken in stew.”

While some form cooperatives and groups, individual farmers and producers can seek assistance to turn their ideas into local entrepreneurial initiatives. The Orange Walk Department of Agriculture says producers of grains, condiments, and vegetables are making it big in the north:

Leonardo Eck, District Agriculture Officer, Orange Walk

Leonardo Eck

“When it comes to beans we are exporting to Jamaica. And rice, we are self sufficient in rice.  We put our effort in trying to help, it doesn’t necessarily mean cash but we can help with techniques or ways on how to improve their system that is the way how the agriculture department helps.   For example a farmer that doesn’t have irrigation system probably we can tell them how to set up and irrigation system and help them to get the system itself. It is at a high cost so we try to help farmers in different ways.”

Ambrosio Vanegas

Ambrosio Vanegas, CARDI

“We do some commercial products and grains too going into beans and doing trial with corn and beans. Most of the work that CARDI do after a while it goes to the farmers; it’s released to the farmers to see what is good to plant and what varieties and what yuh know. In terms of the varieties you know sometimes we plant varieties that might not do well in the area and that’s what the research is mostly about that CARDI do most of the time.”

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

World Food Day was carried out through the partnership of the Ministry of Agriculture, BAHA, Ministry of Health, Pan American Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, National Food and Nutrition Security Commission and the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama.

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