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Nov 11, 2022

Agricultural Projects Encroaching on Other Important Terrestrial Land Masses

The inflated freight charges associated with the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine, taught countries the importance of being self-sufficient and how costly dependency on importation of food products can be in times of global challenges. So allocating more real estate for agricultural purposes is the most logical way of becoming more self-sustainable. But when the spaces being cleared encroach upon the prosperity of other forms of industries, it creates a problem. And when it infringes on the natural habitats of wildlife that keep the ecology balanced and the tourism dollars coming, it has a chain reaction. News Five’s Marion Ali looks at how agricultural expansions that are done wantonly can negatively impact our existence.


Marion Ali, Reporting

For far too long, Belize has been trying to avert the negative impacts that the clearing of the Chiquibul Forest can cause, especially during hurricanes, when the open landscape is more prone to landslides. But while we fight to keep that portion of our country pristine, closer to civilization, we are committing the same transgressions when we clear away land that holds equal importance in the grander scheme – such as in ecology.


[File: October 20, 2022]  Dr. Omar Figueroa, Jaguar & Puma Expert

Dr. Omar Figueroa

“If we begin to lose what we have in the marine environment and in the terrestrial environment, that industrial base that tourism offers will start to fade away.   If you remove the jaguars and the pumas, you’ll have an explosion of the animals that they feed on. And if you have an explosion of those populations that whatever those animals eat will be depleted and the while system begins to fall apart.”


Dr. Omar Figueroa, a jaguar and puma expert, shared with us recently how very important it is for us to develop sustainably and with balance, so that every other component of life can thrive in their own right. To allow for one more than the other – in this case, agriculture, will throw off the balance that preserves even human life, Figueroa says.


[File: October 27, 2022]  Dr. Omar Figueroa, Jaguar & Puma Expert

“Now agriculture is extremely important for our country, but at the same time we need to understand that if we don’t pay attention to the ecology of our natural system we’re doing a disservice to the very same population that we’re trying to protect.”


When wildlife is displaced because of encroachments on their natural habitats, those animals become problematic to the cattle and domesticated animals within the same areas that take over their spaces. And that puts a burden on the Belize Zoo, which has to find the space to cater to these animals’ needs.


Jamal Andrewin Bohn, Conservation Program Mgr., Belize Zoo

Jamal Andrewin Bohn

“The zoo, over several years, has acquired land beyond its perimeter – several hundred acres to shore up to provide a buffer, kind of a haven for animals that get displaced elsewhere, so we are part of a coalition of NGOs and governmental partners that are working to preserve this corridor, not only for the wildlife but for the communities in this area. It preserves the eco-system services, it provides tourism, it provides resource extraction to people that want to hunt legally, want to extract timber legally and so on, and they have the traditional uses of the forest; those will stand because they go away once you have agriculture encroaching, but if the forest stands, everybody can benefit.”


When we spoke two weeks ago with Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Melissa Badillo, on the occasion of International Day of Archaeology, she revealed that that field of study, so important to tourism, also has a problem with agricultural encroachments.


Dr. Melissa Badillo

[File: October 27, 2022] Dr. Melissa Badillo, Director, Institute of Archaeology

“There’s a lot of agriculture development in the country and it poses a great challenge for us because it means that land is being cleared and sometimes irrespective of whatever is on the property. From recent surveys that we’ve been able to do with the use of Lidar technology, we see that Maya mounds are scattered across the entire country of Belize, so without a doubt there has to be some destruction but we are striving to get to that balance.”


News Five tried to get the Minister of Agriculture, Abelardo Mai to comment on this issue today, but he was engaged in meetings. Marion Ali reporting for News Five.

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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