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Jul 17, 2012

Cayo Women develop a family project into an income earner

In the west, an agro-processing facility is providing alternative income for a group of women. The project started on a small scale, but today the production of jams and juices from locally grown fruits has grown considerably, attracting support from the Food and Agriculture Organization. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports on the Western Women Agro-Processing Association.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

What started out just two years ago as a family initiative has branched out into a community-based business. The Western Women Agro-processing Association is a group of ten women based in San Ignacio, Cayo who use agro-processing as a project for empowerment of women.


Bernadette Penados, Member WWAPA

Bernadette Penados

“The group started by, well with my mother, Apolonia Balan, who is the chairperson of the group. She has been practicing agro-processing for many years now and we were discussing one day; because many persons used to come to us and ask us how you process this, we would like to learn, to have these things in our home.”


Those women have turned the age old tradition of jam making into a product for sale. Ripe Papayas make for great home-made jam.


Andrea Polanco

“So, it’s quite an easy process; it’s something you can do at home.”


Lela Cowo, Member WWAPA

“Yes, well my role is to peel, dice and then we have another person who will blend and then she will then add the ingredients for the processing of the jam.”


Apolonia Balan, Member WWAPA

“We’re going to measure the papaya, then the sugar and then the pectin.”


Andrea Polanco

“Alright, so what is the pectin?”


Apolonia Balan

Apolonia Balan

“Pectin is to thicken the jam.”


Apolonia Balan

“So we have seventeen cups in here and now we are going to put seventeen cups in here.”


Andrea Polanco

“So it’s like a cup of sugar to a cup of papaya.”


Apolonia Balan

“So we don’t throw all the sugar and then we have to mix the pectin with all the sugar because if you don’t mix it, it will get lumpy and then we put three scoop of this. Now this ready, si, ready to cook and after this we cook it for like an hour and a half.”


Andrea Polanco

“And then when it finishes?”


Apolonia Balan

“We’re going to bottle them and then it’s ready; its sealed.”


Although just two years into the business, WWAPA has in many small ways contributed to the community and local economy.


Bernadette Balan

“There was a time, I don’t recall which hurricane it was but, when they had to pack and all those things, we already had food prepared and they said that was a good thing that we can teach people how to be prepared in times of disasters. We had the food security, which that was one of our main goals that we had for food security. We said we’ll start out with some little sales and so on, and it was also an opportunity to making money for those that are not working to help the families. That is how we started to sell and we noticed you know what, we can go farther than this and then we look at our country; where yuh know and say everything start small but it would eventually become something that will benefit not only the individuals that are involved or the group; the community and as whole, would be the country. Not only that but like what our slogan says here, ‘inspired for a healthy living.’ Yes, we import many products while we have our products in Belize. Then we bring those canned foods that we all know are not too healthy and then we try to bring more fresh food; our fruits are more organic.”


One such local produce that the women process is pineapple; WWAPA uses this fruit to make, sweets, jams and juices. Today we’re doing pine apple chunks.


Amparito Itza

Amparito Itza, Member WWAPA

“It doesn’t have to be too ripe and not too green. So you wash it and you cut off these. And then these you could use for juice right, we don’t throw away.”


Andrea Polanco

“So basically, you’re using everything from the pineapple?”


Amparito Itza

“Yes, during this process except this rough skins right, we use this for the juice. You cut this in half right down the middle and then I’ll cut it here and then I’ll take this part out and this we’ll use for the juice as well. About fifteen to twenty minutes you let it boil and then in the pressure cooker,  you will hear the noise and you leave it for ten minutes and it’s ready.”


WWAPA started out on a small scale agro-processing production in August of 2010, less than two years later, they have expanded operations. Processing and canning over ten different products, their work has gained the support of the FAO. The group got a twenty thousand dollar grant which will enable them to do mass agro-processing.


Amparito Itza

“We will be adding a wooden extension to the building that will be just for storage so that’s important because if you see the area where we work, it’s small and also the products need to be in a place where it’s not too hot.”


That storage will be great for a product like the red-kidney beans which needs good storage after it’s processed. WWAPA starts the processing after cleaning the beans properly.


Bernadette Penados

“We add our salt, garlic, onion but for the processing we don’t fry the onion as we normally do when cooking it unless after you’ve processed it you can fry and add onion to your taste.”


Andrea Polanco

“So after you’ve boiled it and everything, you’ll start bottling it?”


Bernadette Penados

“Yes, after that process after it is bottled then we need to pressure it for one hour because this one takes time not for the work here but the cooking.”


Andrea Polanco

“When you say pressure it; what exactly you mean?”


Bernadette Penados

“After it’s cooked, we bottle it and then we pressure it for one hour using the pressure cookers.”


Andrea Polanco

“So now, after you’ve bottled it, this is what it looks like?”


Bernadette Penados

“Yes, ready for your rice and beans.”


Andrea Polanco

“Alright, now how long would a bottle like this last?”


Bernadette Penados

“This may last three years.”


Two such products bought from local farmers are habanero and jalapeno peppers; WWAPA says that you can do your own pepper processing right at home; yes, it’s that easy.


Apolonia Neal

Apolonia Neal, Member WWAPA

“The first step that we do is to wash the habaneros; then we cut the onions and carrots and a couple teeth of garlic and once that is done we blend it and in vinegar.”


Andrea Polanco

“How long are we going to blend it for more or less?”


Apolonia Neal

“For about five minutes.”


After which it is cooked on the stove until it boils. The hot mixture is then canned in jars, which seals from the heat. This is what the final product looks like. It can last up to one year. Jalapenos processing is just as quick and easy.


Bernadette Penados

“So when we have prepared our peppers, our onions and our carrots, we then boil water with vinegar and add in some salt. The after that we do is to allow the water with vinegar to boil and after it’s boiling we will add these but we will add these first and then the peppers because we don’t want the peppers to get too soft.”


The jalapenos will be deemed ready after the peppers turn an olive color; a drop of olive oil is added; and then it is ready to be bottled, ensure it is hot so that the jar seals properly.  For Amparito Itza, who has a full time job, agro-processing is ideal for her life-style.


Amparito Itza

“I’ve always liked the products myself because I’ve tasted it because I’m the person when I come from work I have to think about doing do dinner so by having your beans already, it’s very easy and you have it available. You know that it’s good product; it’s fresh so for me having these readily available at home and free of preservatives, this was the best opportunity for me.”


The by and large, the work of WWAPA shows that the potential of agro-processing in Belize is huge. It reduces wastage, enhances food security, improves livelihoods for low-income groups and empowers women. 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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17 Responses for “Cayo Women develop a family project into an income earner”

  1. Rod says:

    Great job ladies we actually have some ambitious hard working people in the country keep going great job.

  2. Gre8tpeople says:

    Nice work hardworking Belizean women. We are so proud of you! I would like to get a hold of your products men especially the jams and the peppers oh and the pineapple juice. Please let me know how I contact you to purchase. I support you a million percent for your hard work and it gives a good feeling to be a Belizean. Can you get these products in the stores? In Belmopan or any other district or just in Cayo? If I have to go there I will.

  3. Amps says:

    Thanks Rod and Gre8tpeople. I am a proud member of the group. Our products are not in the stores as yet, but you can order at 636-5312 or email us at

  4. Al says:

    Great, this is what I am talking about, a community of women who is trying to make a difference. Now if only we can get the men from under the house and from under the tree talking foolishness and from their Belikin Beer and Belize Rum for a little while, maybe they can begin to do something creative to help their families and themselves.
    Go ladies, people of Belize start buying local product and stop some dollars from going out of the country, way to go.

  5. Storm says:

    This is exactly the kind of free enterprise and entrepreneurship we need to build good businesses that can grow and prosper and create more jobs. There is substance to their business because they produce something with value. Congratulations to these people.

    This project is a great example for others in the Jewel of the possibilities and how opportunity can be seized. I wish them the greatest success.

  6. Karl Burke says:

    Excellent example of the empowerment of some of our nation’s women!

  7. Karl says:

    Excellent example, Ladies! Self-empowerment! Way to go!

  8. Clayton Brascoupe says:

    I visit Belize often and always support the local economy buy buying Belize products.
    Great job, keep it going, Healthy food , healthy people , healthy economey, healthy country.

  9. Linda Martin says:

    This is a great example of leadership, teamwork and entrepreneurship! How the cooking and mixing containers sparkle. How fresh the fruit looks. And I can tell you, the mango jam is delicious, as well as the salsa. I hope that other womens groups have the chance to see this video and be encouraged to pursue their own dream. And kudos to Channel 5 for bringing attention to small businesses in Belize. I would rather buy local any day. Now excuse me, I need to order some jam!

  10. Marta says:

    wow I am impressed, would like to get train from you guys so that a group can be form in my village too!!! Great initiative ladies, proud of you all.

  11. Marge says:

    Congratulations to my very good friend Bernadette Penados and her group. I got the opportunity to visit their place and taste some of their products and I can tell you that their is QUALITY, Thanks to Channel5 for taking their time and showing the entire nation that in the West there are hard working women. As a proud Belizean I’m asking you to Please support them, I wish them success !!!!

  12. now i see says:

    See? These ladies are a great example for those “waitreses out there. Very deccent job and i bet very proud kids.congrads and keep it up.

  13. tony says:

    Anytime I see local production by dedicated men/ women it just bring great admiration to me because this is how a people can increase their lively hood and not just waiting for hands out… keep doing a great job Women’s Agro Association.. an inspire the men to create and innovate.

    “In this world there is no such force as the force of a man determined to rise,
    the human soul and mind cannot be permanently chained “

  14. suzette aleida says:

    hey bernie!! its awesome that you guys are doing good with your products. just dont give out your secrets mannnn!!!! :) one day will make it biggg!!! i love the habaneros and the papaya. goodluck to you and the other ladies.

  15. T-man says:

    I must say that I’m glad to have tasted the products they produce VERY GOOD QUALITY. For us belizeans is such an example. This is how we should work- as a team. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK “WWAPA’S”

  16. Lynn says:

    I am very proud of these women especially my besty. Burnadette Balan/Penados. I can say that i have tasted their products and its super delicious. U all got to try these products. U won’t regret it. I could assure you that you will definitely go for more. I wish you ladies success within your business.

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