We often hear on the news and in conversations that Toledo (and to some extent Stann Creek) is the forgotten District. There is an agro-industry program in the south that is working hard to break that stigma. Sustainable Harvest International - Belize (SHIB) has been operating in the country since March 1999 and through commitment and progressive people involvement, SHIB has grown to impact both the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts. The first Country Director was appointed in 2006 and the program has grown to include three field trainers and a fulltime staff of ten and three part-time workers. The principal aspiration of the program is to provide farming families in Central America with the training tools to preserve the forest and alleviate poverty. And that objective is also being realized in Belize. The five core principles of the program are environmental, agro-ecology, food sovereignty, improve livelihood, and learning capacity. Estevan Asi Jr. of SHIB spoke with PlusNews about the quiet but fruitful labor of SHIB.

Estevan Asi Jr., SHIB
We are basically about planting forests and nourishing communities and how we do that is by educating our people and educating our farmers that we work with through training and showing them the importance of keeping our forests as well as giving them projects to alleviate poverty.

He also shared the successes for farming families and how the program has remain sustainable.

Estevan Asi Jr.
At the moment we are working with two hundred and thirty-three families in the south and basically like we said, we are doing small scale animal husbandry. So through that, we teach them how to have sustainable projects. I know that it is not much income, but what we can say is that we are moving farmers from one phase to the other. How we do that is by these projects that we have, which allows us to help certain families and when they master that and have extended their projects, we take it back from them and give it to other families. So everyone that we work with will get a well share of what we have to give. We work with a farmer in a community for a period of five years.

Sustainable Harvest International is currently working with 262 farming families in 26 communities, 3 high schools, and 12 primary schools in both the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts.