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#408275 - 05/20/11 02:18 PM Starvation in Belize River Valley
Marty Offline
The severe dry weather is creating unbearable conditions for residents and livestock alike in the Belize River Valley area. Marion Ali from Love News, went into the area on Thursday along with cameraman Myles Gillett, and the images they brought back tell a story of immense suffering.

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#408276 - 05/20/11 02:22 PM Re: Starvation in Belize River Valley [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Great Drought of 2011….Who Knew?

In the past few weeks we've shown you the forest fires that have been burning - especially in the Belize district where Hurricane Richard trampled the forest and left plenty of fuel for those fires.

And this week in the city we've seen how much smoke was released by those fires - when a land wind nudged the massive plumes of smoke towards the coast.

But what's passed completely under the radar is a drought that's left the land in the rural Belize district as dry as bone. But it's more than just arid land, there's a human dimension - as many of the villages along the northern highway don't have water systems - and fresh water has to be ferried to homes and schools. And while that's being done, there's no relief for livestock that are pining away with no grass to graze on and no water to drink.

We went into the communities along the northern highway to find out how serious it is for some farmers:…

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"Right now in this Belize District and the portion of Belize Rural North we are really feeling the brunt of the weather. It's actually a disaster out here especially with the livestock producers."

John Gongora, Cattle Owner, 15.5 Miles Northern Highway
"This is the worst I ever see drought."

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"It's the worst dry season I had ever seen and I'll show you pictures why. The next dry season that I could remember would have been in 1975. That was a terrible one and this one equals that."

Jules Vasquez Reporting
A generational drought coupled with an aggressive post hurricane fire season has left Belize district livestock producers with cows that bear this lean, hungry look - and the burnt landscape in the background tell why. All the pasturelands they traditionally graze on have either been burnt by forest fires or been reduced to a few dry tufts of grass - sapped of life by a cruel dry season.

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"The areas that we usually get feed from is burnt. We usually go down "washing tree" where there are some beautiful grass pasture and we would cut grass there but that is burnt out."

John Gongora's 300 acres have either been burnt out or dried out - and while he has only 25 head of cattle, these are not happy cows, they are hungry cows - their bony haunches, their ribs protruding through their hide. They gather under a mango tree waiting for fresh fruit to fall;

This is the heap of mangoes they've eaten so far.

John Gongora, Cattle Owner, 15.5 Miles Northern Highway
"The fire came all the way from there and burnt down my posts and it went with my pasture. Right now I have to pick up mangoes to feed my cattle. I have to buy feed from Belize Mills and the citrus company and I am trying to get some brewing waste from Bowen. I don't have any grass, I don't have anything."

Jules Vasquez
"But you have 300 acres of land. On this 300 acres you don't have nowhere to feed the cattle?"

John Gongora, Cattle Owner, 15.5 Miles Northern Highway
"There is no grass."

Same for Angus Vernon is hand feeding this calf because her mother doesn't have any milk due to malnutrition and dehydration:

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"I knew the mother was about to have her calf, So I kept an eye on her and I found her calf outside in the pasture, pretty weak, I had to bring in the calf and her mother, I had to start feeding the mother and her calf and so they both will survive. Though obviously you get to love it - it's like a dog, you would keep a dog but a calf, since you are in business you have to know that this calf will be sold in a year's time for $700 - $800. What would be the end cost and you work that out against the cost factor. Sometime you have to put them to sleep."

That's the realities all these farmers are facing: without pasturelands or water, it's getting too expensive to keep these cows:

John Gongora, Cattle Owner, 15.5 Miles Northern Highway
"In costs, I didn't really add it up, I just spend the money because the cattle have to live."

Jules Vasquez
"You need to maintain the cattle."

John Gongora, Cattle Owner, 15.5 Miles Northern Highway
"You can't leave them there. They will broke the fence and come outside. I keep the cattle so that I don't have to spend money cleaning the yard, they keep down the grass. Now it is costing me for feeding them. How do you like that? That is ridiculous. It's not paying me at all, it's better that I get rid of them."

But as Jean Tillett explained, they can't sell them either

Jean Tillett, Mile 23
"Well everything is punishing right now. With the cows I have to be buying feed. If you notice they are sitting under the mango tree waiting for mangoes to drop so they could have some food. I have to also be giving them water, sometime I have to buy food and I really can't afford it. Sometimes you think about getting rid of them but no one will buy these animals anyway and I have about 18 sheep. Everything is just starving for food and water."

She has about 8 head of cattle and 18 sheep, here too - the story is the same - the matricarch of the family Mickey is rail-thin.

The sheep move at the slightest sound of fruit falling from a tree the ground is desolate and bare - this is the definition of scorched earth and they wait for these cashew to fall or these mango to ripen.

Ms. Jean tooks us across the dry terrain, the area she had dug out as pond - it's gone almost completely dry. The same at Angus Vernon's farm he's already emptied out his home's vat - and needs about 700 gallons of water a day to feed his 128 cattle

He can't get any out of this pond - it's gone dry and reeks from the hundreds of dead, rotting fish - bay snook that line the bottom - a hideous sight and smell but in the cruel dry of 2011 it's just one more casualty and another loss.

This well takes three days to generate half the water he needs per day which is 700 gallons.

So his cows too gather in their gaunt numbers under the mango trees waiting for these juicy Hayden mangoes to fall as that is the only nourishment they can rely on even if half the juice goes to waste.

Gongora has 128 head of cattle, so his situation is dire and getting worse with every dry day that passes:

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"The condition right now is terrible, if you look out there you will see some that I have to bring in because usually at this point is when you have "down cows". "down cow" is a cow that falls either from sickness or from exhaustion or from lack of feed."

He has one right now - but worries that there are others who will soon fall into this condition

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"More and more if the drought continue for another two weeks we will have a lot of dead caucus in this area."

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"At five o' clock in the morning they will be out at that gate shouting "Angus, I am hungry" because I usually put out feed for them. That's what will happen."

Jules Vasquez
"So you have to find something to feed them no matter the cost."

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"I have to find something to feed them no matter the cost."

The farmers are looking to their area representative for help, but there's none to be found:

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"Well I try to talk to the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of NEMO, this is a really grave situation to see the livestock of farmers suffering out here."

Jules Vasquez
"You spoke to them but obviously they have done nothing."

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"It's difficult to find an answer Jules because even to find hay is difficult."

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"Is it possible for you to try and see if you can find some hay? I can identify a place that you might be able to get some and that would be Shipyard. I will be going to pick up a load sometime this week."

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"Brother Angus, what we are trying to do is that I am trying to meet with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and see how they can try to assist us in terms of getting some hay out here. But it is extremely difficult because it's the entire area."

Jules Vasquez
"It's not just an vehicle and money."

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"Jules, it's not difficult, I could get it out."

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"It's a lot of people."

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"You want to give me your truck right now and I go and fond feed? I am sorry that I have to act like this. Give me a truck right now and I will go to Little Belize, I will find feed. I need it you see."

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"A lot of us need feed."

Jules Vasquez
"You can't help him? Because what he is talking about needs money."

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"Needs money and I don't have so I have to rely on the Ministry of Agriculture."

Angus Vernon, - Mile 27 Northern Hwy
"In my case, you just find the transportation for me and I will buy the feed. The transportation is difficult for us. You can see the mangoes that I have, I can carry them to sell and buy feed but by the time you go down to town in a day and buy gasoline you lose so it's better the cow eat the mangoes."

Marion Alley, Reporter
"Can you provide the gentleman with transportation he needs?"

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"I will have to rely on my government, Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Works to send a truck."

Jules Vasquez
"Obviously they don't care."

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"Who feels it know it, we are out here taking lick."

Indeed they are, and right now all they can do is…

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"I really don't know what is the answer Jules, but to pray for rain."

According to the MET Office, an abundant rainy season is expected this year - but not until early June. At the present rate, by then, Angus Vernon expects that he could have lost 10 to 15% of his cattle.

We were unable to reach Chief Met Officer Dennis Gonguez who is also in charge of hydrology and climatology to find out if there is an official declaration of drought conditions this year.

Channel 7


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#408393 - 05/21/11 02:36 PM Re: Starvation in Belize River Valley [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Relief For Drought-Affected Farmers

Last night we told you about the drought in the rural Belize district that's decimating livestock and sapping the resources of farmers who have run out of pasturelands and water to nourish their cattle and sheep.

Between forest fires and the long dry season, the situation has been building to a crisis for weeks, but quite suddenly, after our headline story last night the Ministry of Agriculture has bolted into action with a full court press. A release sent out this morning says the Ministry is, quote "diligently working to address the situation being faced with the death of livestock in the Belize Rural North due to the drought."

The Ministry will be delivering 200 bales of hay and Urea molasses blocks - which is a high protein food - to the livestock farmers in the area. And more than food and nutrition, there's also a promise of water as The Ministry of Works will be distributing that suddenly precious commodity. We understand Angus Vernon of mile 27 will be getting hay for his 128 head of cattle tomorrow morning at 9:00.

And Technical Officers from Central Farm will be working over the weekend to coordinate and address the situation affecting the area.

So, those in the area who need help or recue for their livestock can call the Director of Central Farm Melanio Pech at 824-2123 or 804-2129.

Channel 7


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#408611 - 05/25/11 02:57 PM Re: Starvation in Belize River Valley [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Hay, Even While The Sun Shines

Last week we showed you the drought ravaged Belize rural north and the livestock teetering on the edge of starvation and dehydration.

Well, the ministry of agriculture saw the story too, and this weekend - they started rolling out relief supplies. Hay was delivered to Angus Vernon's Mile 27 farm at 9:00 on Saturday morning - and while the farmer was certainly happy, so too were the cows and goats.

Farmers throughout the area received Hay and urea blocks which is a powerful protein supplement.

Channel 7


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