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Feb 24, 1998

Belize College of Agriculture holds open day

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Two weeks ago we covered a career day held by a consortium of schools on the south side of Belize City. But Gwen Lizarraga High was not the only educational institution I’ve been visiting. Last Friday I ventured to Central Farm to discover that the future of the nation’s agricultural sector is in pretty good hands.

Over two thousand high school and primary school students from across the country converged Friday on the grounds of the Belize College of Agriculture. The students toured, took notes and sampled the variety of foods that were on display. The occasion was B.C.A’s open day. The event, which is held annually, is primarily used as a marketing tool to encourage students to consider a career in the field of farming.

Hugh O’Brien, Principal, B.C.A

“The main purpose of the annual open day is for the college to showcase its programs, its activities and the various fields displays that they have out there, live stock, crops to the general. Mostly to the high school students who are really potential applicants to the college. That is the primary focus of the open day.”

Whether the students were interested in animal husbandry, cash crops or starting up their own production line, there was no shortage of career choices.

Hugh O’Brien

“I am very impressed with the interest the students are displaying. The questions they are asking. I think the teachers took out a lot of time to plan the type of questions that their students would come out here and ask.”

Wherever you toured, there were displays on crops, ornamentals, live stock, and processed foods which were provided by the B.C.A students themselves.

Abby Lisbey, Student, B.C.A

“Well we have food processing and food processing is very important here at BCA, because we have different fruits here that we have. Left over fruits. So we would use them like especially when it is not in the season, we would preserve them so it is very important for preservation cause when the fruit is out of season, we could have it right.”

While the visiting students marveled over just how many different products can be made from fruits, they also couldn’t resist the cool and refreshing taste of the college’s homemade yogurt. But it was not only the B.C.A’S produce that was on display. This year, the one day event for the first time also had representation from the private sector. According to Hugh O’Brien, B.C.A’s principal, it’s their way of contributing towards the country’s sustainable agricultural development.

Hugh O’Brien

“We feel very strongly that with the changes occurring locally and globally, the way forward is collaboration, and we feel that the institution got to form a very firm linkages with the sectors that they operate under. In our case we have had a very good working relationship with the private sector and the N.G.O. community in Belize and we feel that the open day is an event that we can further develop that relationship and we can use that relationship to further strengthen that collaboration, and we can use that relationship for a common agenda, which we feel that by joining forces we can help to change the mind set of Belize.”

O’Brien says before we can compete on the global market, Belizeans first must begin to trust in their own local products. Hence, a “Buy Belizean” motto was the order of the day.

Marie Sharp, Managing Director, Marie Sharp Fine Foods

“We have our entire line of products out here today. We have 18 different products and we have 9 varieties of jams and jellies and why I did that here today is that even though we have 18 variety of products and most of them suppose to be known by Belizeans, I am quite amaze that at functions like this, there are some people that would come along and say, I didn’t know we had a coconut jam, I didn’t know we made this kind of jam.”

Also on hand were a number of Government departments, like the Belize Marketing Board. This year the Board decided to showcase the different ways that rice can be used. This promotion, says George Murray, the Board’s stock and ledger clerk is to reduce the present surplus of rice in the country.

George Murray, Stock/Ledger Clerk, Belize Marketing Board

“We have tamales from rice, we have the very famous cereal for babies, we have brown rice which is the healthiest rice to eat, and we have rice and beans, as you all know. White rice, we have rice pudding and we have fry chicken coated with rice flour.”

And if you think you have had all the rice you can take in one day, visitors to the Board’s booth also quenched their thirst with a cold glass of the rice drink, orchata.

Hugh O’Brien

“In today’s event we have the “Buy Belizean” focus. We also feel that to a large extent, history has had us develop an impression of foreign is good, local is bad, and we want to show people that is not necessarily so. Our local institution can be very strong. Our local products can be of very high quality and if we support those products we will further the development of Belize in our own small way.”

But it was in no small way that B.C.A’s open day was planned. The fair took several months of hard work to get off the ground, and while the only unplanned events were several outbreaks of heavy rain, the downpour did not dampen the enthusiasm of our future agriculturists.

The Belize College of Agriculture was founded in 1977 and in 1989 its diploma program was upgraded to where the institution now offers an Associate’s Degree in applied science.

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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