A new agriculture programme hopes to restore the rural Belzie district as the bread-basket of Belize.

It's a programme to encourage organic chemical free farming. The trick is that the produce is shielded from insects so that it doesn't have to be sprayed with pesticides.

Here's more:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
These bulbous green bell peppers and these succulent tomatoes are grown indoors, in a tropical greenhouse, part of a European funded pilot project from outside, this greenhouse pitched in the middle of Belize district farmlands may look like some kind of experiment. But its paying real time dividends for these farmers:

Charles Galvez, farmer, Lucky Strike
"These are insects free. These are natural peppers, there is no chemical that is use to get these pepper at this size. Since I have gone into this type of farming with this greenhouse I have discover that it is much better maintaining the peppers easier. I do not have to use any chemical to keep the trees safe from different bugs and insects that normally affect vegetables when they are in the open."

Indeed, the greenhouse protects against insects but also the vicissitudes of climate change:

Amir Pullido - Agriculture Extension Officer
"In the past years we have seen a tremendous changes in the climate of which one of the major factors that affects vegetable production is the rain factor. With this technology we can produce inside there, we can control the rain factor. Also we can control the incidents of pests and diseases and of course farmers have seen that yields are much higher in those types of systems than the open field system. We have seen that open field has given us an average of 5 pounds per plant compare to the structure production of about 15 pounds."

"With regards with sweet peppers, in open field we are getting about 5-6 pounds and in the protective structure we are getting from 10-12 pounds."

And not only higher yields, but longer as well, leading to better prices:

"I have been able to harvest for a longer period and also he get some good prices."

But, what they don't talk about is that a tropical greenhouse like this costs forty thousand dollars - more than most small farmers can afford. These ones are funded by a European project - but it works out as an investment:

Amir Pullido - Agriculture Extension Officer
"Actually the initial investment of this structure is very high but it pays itself because what is being grown in there is high value cash crops of which the market is always there."

Charles Galvez, farmer, Lucky Strike
"First of all you will be able to make some money which is very important. Secondly; you would be selling products to people that is chemical free; you don't have to be afraid to eat this because you will not be eating cancer products. If you want the cancer products I don't have that, I have the natural one, so this is very beneficial and to my mind when I am selling anything to anybody it must be free of all diseases and chemicals."

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"I think this is the way to go. You actually utilize a smaller portion of the ground that you have of your farm and you produce, get a lot more yield."

Enough of a yield for this area representative to dream about Belize Rural's glory days:

Hon. Edmund Castro, Area Representative
"Help our farmers to get back to where we once were and known for; the breadbasket of Belize."

The Ministry of Agriculture is working on low cost alternatives to the forty thousand dollar greenhouse.

Channel 7