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Feb 8, 2021

Organic Farming – Is It Doable for Traditional Farmers?

Ya’axche Conservation Trust and the European Nature Trust have partnered to promote climate-resilient farming techniques to ensure food security and protect natural resources such as forests.  It has been more than a decade since Y.C.T. began to work with eighty farmers to get them to see the value in sustainable farming practices.  So, as a part of educating farmers, Ya’axche and The European Nature Trust flew ten farmers from Toledo to Blancaneaux Lodge in Cayo to learn more about establishing and maintaining an organic garden.  Our news team joined the group on Friday and files this report.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Maya Golden Landscape is seven hundred and seventy thousand acres made up of protected areas, private lands, and Maya and Hispanic villages. It’s a critical southern biological corridor because it’s the only remaining broadleaf forest link between the Maya Mountains and the forested coastal plains of southern Belize. Inside this network of forests, farmers have been practicing traditional farming – slash and burn agriculture that is destructive to this natural forest. For about twelve years now, Ya’axche Conservation Trust has taught farmers about environmentally friendly farming practices to reduce deforestation and other harmful impacts on the environment. It’s not always an easy sell – especially when the slash and burn is all farmers know – farming practices passed down from generation to generation.


Christina Garcia

Christina Garcia, Executive Director, Ya’axche Conservation Trust

“So, what we are basically promoting here is a different way of doing farming. Most of the farmers, the traditional practices that they utilize are more of the slash and burn but what we basically want to demonstrate here is that there is a different way of doing farming.  It has not been an easy road because it is hard to make that behavioral shift, but we do have farmers who have adopted some of these practices. We know that it is going to take time, it is going to take a lot of effort but Ya’axche has been supporting farmers in giving them that technical support and in tools so that it becomes necessary for them to make that shift.”


And a part of that shift is to introduce farmers to smart agricultural practices being done right here in Belize. On Friday, Ya’axche Conservation Trust, with the support of The European Nature Trust, took ten farmers from the Maya Golden Landscape to Blancaneaux Lodge in the Mountain Pine Ridge. The visit took the farmers to this four-acre plot of organically grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs. From start to finish, a team of six from Blancaneaux Lodge works on this garden using only natural resources to grow healthy produce that supplies about eighty percent of their food for their property


Bernie Matute

Bernie Matute, General Manager, Blancaneaux Lodge

“As you can see, our garden is organic, and we stray completely away from conventional gardening, which was something very difficult for us to have done, but we have been able to master it for the past ten years we have been doing this.   We do a lot of composting – our stables – we have twenty-one horses and all the manure is brought in from there; our landscapers trim all the vegetation and that is brought in back to the garden and that is composted. Our kitchen also participates heavily in this way – we collect all the eggshells; the coffee grinds, and all the peelings from the veggies and fruits that we consume on a day to day basis and so that comes back and it becomes soil and goes back again right on to your table right from there.”


And many of the techniques are new to farmer Pablo Salam of Medina Bank – but he says they are adaptable enough that he can do them. In his village, he has a backyard garden that provides for his family. For a few years now, he has been partnering with Ya’axche Conservation Trust to learn more about sustainable agricultural practices.


Pablo Salam

Pablo Salam, Farmer, Medina Bank, Toledo

“The backyard garden is just for my family, and I want to learn more and expand, especially these times of challenges we have with this pandemic. I went back to my garden and started to improve it more because I have to provide for the family.   What I have seen are different types of organisms that they are using and adopt it to spray to their farm due to the pests and so that is really affecting my farm so when I go back and practice it, then I will see the improvement on my farm.   Especially this coming time – the greenhouse that they have is really improved and that is something new that I have seen and so I think that we can start to work on greenhouse that we can get better product.”


Carmelo Juarez works with coconut growers in southern Belize and he is also a small scale farmer. His takeaway from this experience is the natural control of pests – something he says he is looking forward to implementing on his farm.


Carmelo Juarez

Carmelo Juarez, Farmer, Big Falls, Toledo

“For me, I find challenges with control of pests and that sort of thing, and I go to a manual that is provided by BAHA; however, that is using chemicals and so we want to go more organic.   For example, aphids, we do have aphids affected the coconut plants and we have the whiteflies that affect the garden. So, the ideas shared here are great. I don’t need to go to the agro-vet place to buy chemicals. We have it and we need to know how to put it together to make it effective.


And that’s what the funder of this project, Paul Lister wants – for these farmers to see the value in climate-smart and environmentally friendly farming practices that will not only conserve our natural resources but also support their livelihoods when yields increase. Lister is the founder of The European Nature Trust who is championing traditional farmers’ transition to sustainable farming practices in Belize.


Paul Lister

Paul Lister, Founder & Trustee, The European Nature Trust

“Belize is one of those unique countries that has a very large percentage of its landscape is already protected and covered in forest and vegetation whether it is pine or hardwood but it is very unique – I think sixty five percent and that is something to be proud of.  But then there are countries like the UK and Denmark where we have nothing left – where we have cut everything down, over the imperialist past, the industrial revolution, two world wars and we have nothing left of our forests. When you are a British person and you understand that and you come to a place like Belize which has so much forest and so much native woodlands and mangroves and other beautiful landscapes, you tend to appreciate it more.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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