Belize River Valley under water
Ten days of rains has caused flooding in the Belize River Valley. Farms in a number of communities have been affected. In the Maskall Area, the farmers have lost most of their crops of fruits and vegetables. The damage to crop is extensive and our news team had to trek through mud and rely on four wheel drive to get to some of the farms. The Ministry of Agriculture and the farmers are assessing the extent of losses. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
Driving into Maskall Village, the flooding across parts of road is an indicator of the amount of rain that area has had in recent days. But that’s only the beginning of what the heavy showers have caused in that community. Farms were battered and inundated during the days of nonstop raining and the losses were assessed today by personnel from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Evaristo Verde, Extension Officer Grade 2, Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries
“Today what we’re doing is doing damage assessments after the rains. basically, what we’re doing is just confirming the situation because we actually know how much the farmers have but when we do report, we want to be as accurate as possible. So that’s what we’re doing today, just confirming that damage really occurred.”
“What kind of losses have you seen so far?”
“We have seen losses in sweet peppers—totally lost, tomatoes, watermelons and in some instances plantains and corn. Pastures are kind of flooded but I guess grass is alright more in water than the other crops.”
It took a heavy duty truck with a diesel engine and four wheel drive to get through farm roads, that have turned into mud paths. The roads lead to tomato fields, one which is owned by Ruben Pineda and his brother. They have been able to salvage very little as over three thousand tomato plants quickly dried up and died after the flood waters in the village receded.
Ruben Pineda, Maskall Farmer
“I lost most of the tomato field because this is the first amount that I start to cut and I already lose it because the plants are dead already. So I will harvest the tomatoes that are full already, but the smaller ones are lost. Of all the plants we have, we can salvage only about a quarter.”
“You see he have like maybe three or four workers, working going there, he have to pay them and then he have to mek all ah dehn money and di diesel fi ker di thing plus going to di market and all ah dat.”
Pineda is about ten thousand dollars out of pocket, while his brother lost about six thousand. Another farmer, Jorge Payes had a smaller crop of muskmelons; but it was all he had… and it was all lost.
Jorge Payes, Maskall Farmer
“I didn’t have much because I only had muskmelon but I lost maybe three thousand dollars or maybe more because I noh start sell yet so I don’t know how much I would ah mek. But I think about three thousand dollars.”
“I saw that they’ve been trying to still save some of their tomatoes, have you been able to save anything?”
“Yeah, I mi start to cut but like the muskmelon is much different than the tomato. The muskmelon, if you cut it, ih still get spoil so it’s very different than the tomato. The tomato yoh could save some if you cut di green one but di muskmelon is very hard. Last time ih mi rain ten days none stop, everyday, everyday so we neva have chance to cut di muskmelon. When we mi want cut it, it’s already spoiled.”
One of the most affected farmers is Victor Padilla, who had a variety of fruits and vegetables destroyed by the floods. He only managed to save some tomatoes and watermelons.
Victor Padilla, Maskall Farmer
“We had three green houses with sweet pepper, each green house had—one had one thousand sweet peppers and the next two had seven hundred. So that would be roughly two thousand, four hundred plants inside. Outside we had two thousand sweet peppers too plus three thousand tomato plants weh all gone. We had two acres and a half of watermelon and di plantains. So it’s a very big loss.”
“Do you know how much it is financially?”
“Actually, we mi invest around fifteen thousand dollars.”
The only option now is for these farmers to start over and most of them have not yet figured how that will be done.
“We have to wait until the weather gets more… I don’t know. More or less if you have any finances—I can’t know right now because people stay bruk because di lee bit ah money, dehn have to spend it. I noh know weh dehn wah do. Maybe if they make money from this they could invest again because that’s the way we live in farming, but I don’t know.”
“We have to try. I don’t know what we will do but we have to try to start over, probably make seed beds again and try to work on the green houses, repair them because one of the green houses even broke down due to the lot of rain.”
But according the Belize District Extension Officer, Evaristo Verde, there may be assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Today we are going to file a report to our District Agriculture Coordinator in Belize District Office and from there he will be reporting to higher authorities and then they will try to secure aid for the farmers. We have about one hundred and twenty farmers but most farmers work in families so the farms will be a smaller amount.”
“And all of them were affected by these rains?”
“In this area, yes, all of the farmers.”
“What’s this area called?”
“This is Nago Bank, but when we say Maskall area it includes Bomba, Nago Bank and Corozalito.”
Verde says, he has been working in Maskall for almost five years and in that time, he has never seen such destruction; not even after Hurricane Richard. Delahnie Bain for News Five.