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Oct 9, 2019

Drought Decimates Acres of Crop in Little Belize, Farmers are Distraught

The financial losses to farmers up north don’t look good after months of a drought gripped the farming community.  In Little Belize, a small Mennonite community in the Orange Walk District, crops of soybeans and vegetables as well as livestock, were severely impacted by the lack of rain. Acres of produce and hundreds of heads of cattle have been affected.  Farmers are feeling the pain in their pockets and their livelihood is under threat.  Today, News Five’s Isani Cayetano returned to Little Belize and files the following report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The devastating impact of severe dry weather that has been affecting the country is felt most in the north where the agriculture sector has taken the brunt of the unseasonable drought.  In the Corozal District, farmers are still assessing losses they have suffered as a result of the prolonged shortage of water which has harshly affected crop production.  Little Belize, a traditional Mennonite community east of Progresso Lagoon, has seen entire cornfields decimated.  Soybean, an economic mainstay in this agrarian colony, is once again in grave danger.


Abram Schmitt

Abram Schmitt, Resident, Little Belize

“So we are standing here in a poor field of soybeans and most of them, they are like this, like we already pictured.  So it’s poor, a lot of them will maybe give twenty percent of the full produce and some fields are like in fifty or sixty percent at the highest.  But the most are lower, like fifteen percent, twenty percent, twenty-five percent of producing what they normally should.”


Across Little Belize, there are approximately seven thousand acres of legume that were planted earlier this year.  It is estimated that the maximum yield will be twenty-five percent.  That’s a massive loss of almost two million dollars and that is only one crop grown in this area of northern Belize.


Elsner Campos

Elsner Campos, District Agriculture Coordinator, Corozal

“For Little Belize, itself, the greens, the veggies and also other legumes were also damaged by the drought, similarly to other parts of the district and also other parts of the other districts that are already mentioned.  So it has been a similar situation due to drought.”


Looking at the pastoral landscape, cows are grazing but many of them are emaciated from lack of water.  The grasses they have been consuming over the past few months have been low in water content and it clearly shows.  Elsner Campos is the District Agriculture Coordinator for Corozal.


Elsner Campos

“Our department has already reported taking into consideration how many pounds it was lost for each animal during this long period, during this long drought.  This is something that hasn’t just happened all of a sudden, right.  It’s due to many other reasons, one of them is climate change and well, the animals did suffer, if you are asking about it.  We are considering about fifty pounds lost during this long drought and that was mainly throughout the district, I would say.”


This was first shared by Agriculture Minister Godwin Hulse last month when the figures were released on the effects of the drought on cattle.


Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture

“Livestock took a big hit, but livestock is a bit touchy because the figures given to me is that about sixty thousand, three hundred heads of cattle that have been affected; not dead, it means that they have lost weight, dehn get maga, they didn’t have water, never had grass.  So the estimate is roughly about fifty pounds per animal and of course at a dollar fifty a pound, it’s a significant reduction.  Cattle will come back for sure.”


Abram Schmitt is one of several thousand residents who make their living off the land.  Back in March, the soybean industry was at a critical juncture due to the introduction of derivatives from Mexico.  The industry was primed to rebound after government stepped in to regulate importation, but no one here was prepared for this catastrophe.


Abram Schmitt

“We have no idea how we will handle the loss because we have nowhere or any other income, so if we will not get help from somewhere…  We are not able to get fertilizer again to give the nutrition to the land and even to buy the chemicals to spray and give good products.  This will not even cover the expenses of the cost of the planting and spraying and whatever, all the maintenance.  So for labor we will have nothing.”


While government has stepped in to provide some relief to farmers in the most affected areas, recovering from this devastating phenomenon will prove challenging to most farmers who already owe the banks for this year’s crop.


Abram Schmitt

“They cannot see how to keep going this way because it‘s all tied up because they owe the bank and so on.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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