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The San Pedro Sun

Kids 4 Clean Water fundraising for this years’ camp
Fundraising efforts are underway for the 4th Annual Kids 4 Clean Water Camp held in the San Mateo Area. The camp, which has been hosted by Belize Community Conservation (BCC) since 2012, is offered to the local youth to provide environmental conservation and public health education to persons living in San Mateo. The week-long camp is headed by Founder of BCC Heather Zwicker, Caribbean Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) member Mary Beth and Early Childhood Educator from Canada Cathy Power. Organizers are attempting to raise $7,000 to fund this year’s event through an online fundraising website called ‘FundRazr’. Monies raised will cover all expenses incurred during the camp. “The camp is a weeklong adventure where the children and community come together to learn about various aspects of clean water and its impact on their own health and the environment they live in. They learn how water is a huge part of their lives and how each and every one of them can make a difference. Less than a mile from the second largest reef in the world which boasts some of the best diving worldwide, on the fringe of San Pedro Town, is San Mateo.

Letter to the Editor: William Magnusson on The Belize Bank Stock Price
Letters-to-the-EditorThe Belize Bank stock has dropped from $5.00 a share to $.20 a share. A whopping 96% loss. How can this be in an improving economy? Did this have something to do with Mr. Ashcroft’s recent visit? Is there a conspiracy afloat to deliberately collapse the bank, thus destroying the economy of Belize just before an election? Is the leadership of the PUP in on this plan so as to blame it on the present government and win the election? They seem pretty confident of winning and holding on to power. Why are they so dogmatic in the, “us 4 and no more” policy of the party, considering their own people are rebelling against them. Only a miracle could win them to the election, a miracle perhaps in the form of a wealthy English Lord. Should the bank fail, your savings could go with it, along with any property or goods you have mortgaged with them. In an “economic crisis,” the bank can foreclose on loans even though those loans are up to date. This foreclosure could be selective, driving UDP supporters into economic ruin and the waiting arms of the PUP, who will no doubt, blame it on the Government.

Editorial: Knock Knock…Does Anybody Care???
Dear Mayor Guerrero, Over the last few months, The San Pedro Sun has received many ‘letters to the editor’ from tourists who have visited our island. It is with great concern that we are seeing a trend in unhappy visitors, and although several issues are addressed in these letters, there are two major areas of concern that stand out; traffic and garbage. Although these letters are few compared to the number of guests we see in San Pedro, you have to imagine how many others left our island disappointed but did not write to us. Based on the comments these letters get when they are posted on our popular Facebook page, there are many, many others who share the same sentiments. And…many are saying they won’t be back. We feel that our guests have spoken in volumes, and their opinions are reflected in the recent TripAdvisor TRAVELERS’ CHOICE™ ISLANDS 2015 list. Where for the last two years Ambergris Caye was crowned #1 island IN THE WORLD, this year our dear home didn’t even make the Top 10 list.

Maya Communal Lands reaffirmed at CCJ
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has formally declared that a prior judgment of the Belize Court of Appeal stands, affirming that Belizean Maya Communal Lands Rights exist. That declaration was made in Belize City on Wednesday April 22nd in the packed courtroom of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. Antoinette Moore, attorney for the Maya Claimants, took the opportunity outlining her submissions that the Mayas deserve damages for all the years when their customary land rights were ignored. The CCJ was scheduled to listen to arguments in regards to the Maya Communal Lands Rights, but before arguments began, the Court delivered a consent order. The order was entered into by both the Maya claimants and the Government of Belize (GOB). The order declared that a judgment of the Court of Appeal stands, meaning that Maya Communal Land Rights existed. With that affirmation, the court accepted GOB’s agreement to develop necessary administrative and legal steps to protect those land rights. The mechanism must be developed in full consultation with the Mayas in southern Belize. Those land rights will include land ownership rights at the Lands Department as well as any other terms agreed upon by both the Maya communities and GOB.

Misc Belizean Sourcesmzz

Fundraiser for Rudy Gonzalez Jr. in San Pedro
Asking the island community to support fundraiser for Rudy Gonzalez Jr. Taking place Sunday on the beach.

Samaritan's Purse Work
The Generation of Fire Youth Group teamed up with Cornerstone, and gave out gifts to Cayo youths yesterday at Sacred Heart College. 100's of happy kids. Wonderful initiative! Thanks! "As part of Oasis of Blessing Ministry, we joined Cornerstone Church in serving in the organization of the Samaritan's Purse Initiative to bless children. We were able to serve, in blessing hundreds of children in Belize. There was no greater blessing than to see children smile as they received a gift."

FCD signed a partnership agreement with Western Kentucky University
On the 1st of May, FCD signed a partnership agreement with Western Kentucky University with the purpose of providing FCD with technical assistance that promotes good science and best practices in ecosystem planning and management. In light of this agreement, Dr. Jason Polk and Dr. Leslie North imparted a karst management and cave resource inventory training for FCD staff.

CJC Expo 2015 Successful
See photos from the CJC 2015 Expo here.

Corozal Earth Day 2015
Earth Day 2015 with Program at Mangrove Park. The major organizations responsible were FOCUS and the Corozal Town Council. The major project is always a clean-up day, with groups picking up the trash along the highways leading into and out of town. This has been designated as the Corozal Green Mile Clean-up Campaign, done yearly. Groups were given trash bags and gloves and were able to decide at what time they would like to take care of their area. was out early checking the activity going on.

The Reporter

Inflation remains in negative for first quarter 2015
The cost of living has been incrementally decreasing since the first quarter of 2015, according to the statistical Institute of Belize. The SIB’s latest instalment of the consumer price index, which measures the price change of various goods, services and amenities, shows that for the months of January to March the price of goods remained between one and 1.2 percent cheaper than when compared to the same period last year. The SIB attributed much of thecprice drops to decreasing fuel prices and transportation, as well as lower rates for amenities, such as light and water. Food and vegetable prices have also been consistently low since the first quarter, with the all items section of the CPI, which measures the price change for food items, has also remained between one and 1.2 percent. For the month of March, SIB reported that “food prices saw an average decrease of 0.8 percent, driven by lower prices for eggs, Red Kidney beans, and various fresh vegetables, including cabbage, onions, and carrots.”

CCRIF SPC giving opportunities to Belizean environmentalists
Belizean environmentalists have until May 25 to take advantage of the grant funding and internship opportunities being offered by CCRIF SPC, (formerly the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility). The organization is calling for applicants from Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and CCRIF member countries that either have project proposals or want work experience in the area of disaster risk management. Through the Small Grants Programme, the organization will provide funding for disaster risk and climate change adaptation projects, ranging from US$5,000 to US$25,000.The Regional Internship Programme is designed to give vital work experience to students in disciplines such as: disaster risk management, environmental management, meteorology, climate studies; civil engineering management studies, with a focus on risk management, environmental economics goography/geology, and actuarial science.

Breaking Belize NewsPJ

Family of Travis Polanco is asking public for help to cover medical expenses
On Thursday evening, 6 year old Travis Polanco was shot to his head by his 9 year old neighbor in the village of Valley Community in the Stann Creek District. Since then, Polanco has been under critical condition and life support at KHMH in Belize City. Information reaching our news […]

Belizeans look forward to Pacquiao-Mayweather fight
The social media landscape in Belize has been abuzz with the fight of the century between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The fight which is scheduled tonight at 9:00 pm eastern at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, USA is expected to be the richest match ever in history. “Almost […]

Farmers of the Year honored during NATS 2015
Belizeans braved the threat of inclement weather to come out to the 2015 National Agriculture and Trade Show which officially kicked off today following official opening ceremonies on Friday. A regular feature of the event is the annual honoring of the farmers of the year who this year […]

Skeletal remains found in Corozal District
Skeletal remains believed to be of 72 year old Federico Chable from the village of San Victor in the Corozal District were discovered sometime yesterday afternoon. According to Police, they visited a bushy lot situated ½ kilometer southwest of the village where the skeletal remains were unearthed. Brother of the […]

The May 2015 issue of The BELIZE AG REPORT is online.
Click HERE to download the PDF

This Issue's Stories:

  • Tropical Agro-Forestry -- A Belize Bamboo Project: Bamboos are very well adapted to Belize growing conditions. These elegant plants thrive in many soils and bring a tropical look to any landscape. Over the years, we have introduced many varieties of useful and beautiful tropical clumping bamboos to our farm on tranquil Spanish Creek in the Belize District. This article is a summary of our progress to date. Our bamboo agro-forestry project began in January, 2005 when we purchased a second growth forested property of 1978 acres. Tropical Agro-Forestry, Ltd. was formed and we began to study our site. At the recommendation of the Belize Forestry Department, we started to work with the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA). BAHA officials began a pest risk analysis (PRA) to verify that the introduction of bamboo would pose no risk to other crops in Belize. After a year of research and site visit to south Florida to view bamboo plants there, the protocol for the importation of bamboo into Belize was developed. Bamboo plants from cuttings were started in our nursery in grow bags of native soil amended with rice hulls and compost. We planted our nursery starts in the field later that year on 50 acres on the forest edge. Our varieties are clumping types of Bambusa and Dendrocalamus species. We are currently introducing new and exciting varieties from south Florida. In a few years, we will also have young nursery plants available for sale or trade.
  • Belize Ag Report Thankfully Enters 7th Year of Publishing…: fledgling edition, but it has. From a vague concept of providing information useful to producers, and thanks to the confidence of our advertisers and the growing cadre of passionate contributors, we have grown not only in size (24 pgs of issue #1, to 44 pgs of issue #28), but in focus and in geographical coverage. In this issue you will find 2014 crop data from Blue Creek (Mennonite) community (pg 36), as well as prices now delineated by location in Belize for several commodities. Thank you to all our writers, an expanding group of diverse talents, some one time writers, some regulars; we appreciate you all. You expose the variety of Belizean agriculture that is its signature. More binds us than divides us. Regarding the current rice importation/marketing debate unfolding, we should keep our eyes on food security via local production (pg 36). Together, the ag community has a tremendous lobbying power to help mold Belize’s future. Opinions are always valued, welcomed and usually printed in our Letters to the Editor section. Discussion by sharing information is our goal.
  • Is citrus a dying industry?: Dear Editor, As citrus production continues to fall in our country, 4 million boxes last year down from 7 million a few years ago, citrus growers need to ask themselves, “Why are we letting this happen?” We know the main reasons: low prices and Citrus Greening disease. Why are we doing nothing about it? Can we do anything about it, or are we doomed to lose our investments? Let’s look at the reasons and determine if the inevitable can be avoided. 1. Low prices - The citrus processor paid growers last year $10.50 per box of fruit. Florida growers received $27 per box for the same quality. Florida growers spent $4,000. per acre in an attempt to keep their groves alive and producing until a solution to Citrus Greening is found. Even so, theirs is a stopgap measure as production has fallen from their 170 million boxes of a few years ago to the current forecast of below 100 million boxes. Without heavy inputs of foliar sprays and a heavy Psyllid (the bug that spreads Greening) control, they will soon have no industry. In Belize, our only cost saving versus Florida’s is our cost of labor. Everything else costs more here. As our national average production in Belize is reputed to be 175 boxes per acre, a gross income of $1,750 per acre will not allow for sufficient inputs. We will and are, going out of business.
  • State-of-the-Art Citrus Nursery: By Thomas E. Tate, Nursery Manager for Plant World Nursery, CGA. Who we are... Plant World Nursery was created to complement the existing nursery production capacity and ensure the availability of citrus plants in the quantity urgently required by the citrus industry to replant and replace uneconomic diseased trees, thereby lowering the Huanglongbing (HLB) innoculum in the industry. Plant World Nursery is a state-of-the-art nursery facility located on the Red Bank Road off the Southern Highway. It consists of four greenhouses totaling 3.6 acres of covered space. There are three nursery structures of about 1 acre each for the production of clean (disease-free) nursery plants. The other structure, covering about 0.2 acre, is used for budwood production. Plant World Nursery sits on 18 acres of land out of 100 acres available for nursery expansion or for the planting of fruit crops like citrus, soursop and pineapples that are processed at the citrus factory. In addition to direct support of the fruit juice industry, the nursery will also be able to produce other fruit trees for customers.
  • Conquering the Silent Killer – The Pink Hibiscus MealyBug: Did you know that you could be harbouring thousands of pests in your backyard? And did you know that thousands if not millions of dollars can be lost because of it? The hibiscus plant serves as an aesthetic plant, decorating our beautiful yards, but at the same time serves as the perfect place for the silent killer to hide and survive. Since its detection in 1999, the silent killer has been largely ignored. The pink hibiscus mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus Green), as it is widely known, has unnoticeably established itself throughout the country causing significant challenges to plant growth during dry conditions, especially impacting agriculture’s stability and the livelihoods of many farmers. Mealybug infestations appear on a large number of host plants as a tiny, soft bodied insect that looks like a mass of cotton. Mealybugs are sucking insects that feed on sap of young tissues on plants by introducing its mouth part called a stylet. Through its feeding mechanism, the mealybug introduces toxic saliva inside the system of the host plant causing significant visual symptoms such as curling leaves, deformed fruits and flowers and stunted growth.
  • Management of Soil Micro-organisms for Improving Organic Matter Levels in Belize: By Dr. Stephen Zitzer. Agricultural soils and undisturbed soils both consist of complex communities of living organisms. It would be foolish to lump all plowed fields and native soils together as just “plain dirt”. However, all soils do fundamentally rely on similar groups of soil bacteria and fungi to consume and break down living and dead organic matter and mineral rocks into small mobile chemical forms of most elements that they contain. Among these decomposition products are the 16 essential elements plants require for growth that are in forms most plant species are capable of absorbing through root, stem and/or leaf surfaces. Besides conducting these critical chemical transformations, the life and death of trillions upon trillions of soil bacteria and fungi result in the development of soil structure. Soil structure, or really development of interconnected internal pore spaces, provides the microscopic infrastructure or plumbing that allows soils to breathe, eat, drink and grow. As soils age, a general measure of their growth is the amount of carbon they accumulate, most of it incorporated in living and dead organic matter or biomass. Associated with soil carbon accumulation is the accumulation of most of the soil nutrients required for plant growth and an overall increase in biodiversity.
  • Update On Avian Influenza: By Dr. Miguel Depaz. Avian influenza (AI) is a highly contagious viral infection, primarily in avian species. Clinical signs range from inapparent in wild birds to a rapidly fatal condition in domestic poultry. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) requires notification of this disease once the subtype is H5 or H7 due to its zoonotic (affect humans) potential and the virus’s ability to mutate into a highly pathogenic avian influenza which may cause high mortality in poultry and great economic loss. BAHA through its active surveillance for avian diseases detected, for the first time in Belize, Avian Influenza H5N2 on January 14th, 2015 at two poultry farms in Spanish Lookout, Cayo. The detection was confirmed by the OIE reference laboratory, The National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL), USA. The two poultry farms were immediately placed under precautionary quarantine and the implementation of six checkpoints to control the movement of poultry and poultry products in the area was begun. BAHA has also increased surveillance in the area to determine the spread of the disease.
  • Fabulous Forest Food: By Jenny Wildman. Twelve species of Chamaedora are reportedly found in the understory beneath the forest canopy of Belize. Three of these have value for cut leaves, the best known being Xate. As usual I search for plants that are edible and nutritious giving us interesting food alternatives. The Chamaedora tepejilote, date palm or Pacaya is an attractive ornamental palm but also produces a vegetable well known to many as chib. The tree thrives in shady locations and usually grows a single trunk reaching as high as twenty feet but there are also clumping varieties. The petiole has a prominent yellow stripe, the tree produces very showy decorative berries and the male and female flowers grow on separate trees. The stems can be used as heart of palm but the prize is in the male inflorescence which is the delicacy grown commercially in Guatemala and canned for export. The female flower is reportedly tastier than the male but not as readily available and reserved for special occasions in some places. The chib is mostly eaten fresh and planted in home gardens. It grows abundantly in Central America and has huge commercial potential. I found studies of production and forest management which say that by removing fifty per cent of the trees leaves the male plants produced twice as many inflorescence. Useful information if you decide to cultivate. The palms have great longevity so you can plan on harvesting for many years.
  • The Soils of Belize by District/Region Northern Regions-continued: The Xaibe Plain land system extends across the southern border of the Corozal District into the Orange Walk District. The recent alluvium soils of the western Corozal District and contiguous northwestern Orange Walk District contain some swampy areas due to limited drainage across the Bravo Hills that originates from the land region. The dominant drainage course is in the Rio Bravo into the Rio Hondo. The only alluvium found is in large solution basins in the north, the Neustadt Swamps. This area is an open savannah plain and low marsh forest plain based on recent alluvium. Wetness, low nutrient availability, severe workability and root room limitations as well as anaerobic conditions preclude development and these soils are marginal to moderate in suitability for rice. Most of the better lands have been taken up by sugar cane production. Another feature of this area is the occurrence every few years of severe flooding which can last for weeks in some areas.
  • CASSAVA - The Old Becomes New Again: By Beth Roberson. When CARICOM member states met in September 2014 to discuss regional agricultural policy and strategy, they assessed the region’s food imports and made recommendations for production and trade opportunities in foods. They recognized that the Caribbean is heavily dependent on imported foods. With a population of 16M people in the 15 CARICOM countries, the annual food import bill is in excess of US$4 Billion. This figure has doubled in the last 10 years. Further, they recognized that often these imported (and often processed) foods also contribute to the increasing incidence of diet related diseases. Thus the CARICOM delegates have been seeking alternative commodities which can reduce the import bill and increase consumption of healthier alternatives. Cassava and sweet potato were identified as fitting the bill to remedy some of these issues. “Their analyses show that there is a huge untapped import-substitution market opportunity for flour, feed and beer (and possibly energy, if volumes permit) that can be addressed by utilization of cassava.”* Belize we know has the conditions to grow good cassava. At this time there is one commercial cassava factory in Belize, Sabal Cassava Farm, at 3 ½ Miles Stann Creek Valley Rd, Stann Creek District. They have been growing mainly 2 varieties of cassava from the same germplasm for about 20 yrs; the white on about 12-15 acs, and the yellow, on about 3 acres, all close to the factory.
  • Soil Analysis A Necessity for Good Crops: By Neal Kinsey. If it were possible to accomplish improvements in just one step considering all aspects of soil fertility and fertilization, where would be the place to begin? Many answers will likely come to mind depending on the past experience of each person. But all types of growers from farmers to gardeners should consider that without a proper foundation on which to build an excellent soil fertility program, it will not be possible to achieve the full range of benefits that could otherwise be available. Working with farmers and growers on fertility needs for all kinds of crops in all states of the US and many other countries, learning or obtaining the experience, knowledge and understanding concerning how excellent soil fertility works to benefit all crops has been most helpful. Taking a sufficient number of soil samples to show all those differences that can significantly affect crop quality and yield potential seems to be the most important step that is not normally taken seriously enough for the benefit of the land and those who live from it. If all of the soil in a field were alike, it would all look the same, feel the same and grow the very same way. But that is seldom the case. If the soil has any major differences in texture, color, or plant population – even different weed or grass/legume populations – chances are the fertility will be significantly and measurably different as shown by using a detailed soil analysis. For farmers, consultants and all others dealing with soil fertility and fertilization this should be the principal goal, to help each farmer learn how a detailed soil fertility program that accurately identifies crop needs can become most helpful.
  • $12 Million Project to Boost Belize Forests : By Dottie Feucht. “We like our forests and waterways; we want them protected from illegal logging, runoff of agrochemicals upstream, and deforestation. We look forward to working together to achieve the goals.” These were some of the comments of the citizens groups in response to the project plan presented by Tanya Santos Neal, project manager, and Eugene Waight, project officer, at the official launching of the project on March 25. Funded by the Global Environment Facility and administered by The World Bank, the five year project aims to manage and protect natural habitats of high conservation value, called Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA), that total more than 500,000 acres including: 1. Fresh Water Creek Forest Reserve 2. Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary 3. Vaca Forest Reserve 4. Chiquibul National Park 5. Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve 6. Columbia River Forest Reserve Mr. Enos Esikuri from the World Bank said that in other parts of the world Belize is known for its pristine forests and waterways. Indeed, Belize has the largest forest coverage in Central America but deforestation is alarming. In November, 1980 74% of Belize was forest; by June, 2014, that percentage dropped to 60.3%. The largest amount of the grant money has been allocated to sustainable forest management.
  • BEL-CAR UPDATES: As usual, BEL-CAR is keeping up with the world, with their CEO Otto Friesen serving as an unofficial ambassador of our growing Belizean agricultural community. Otto and another traveled to Las Vegas, USA, to attend a conference for CICILS. “CICILS is the not-for-profit peak body for the whole global pulses industry value chain. As the sole international confederation for the industry, it enjoys membership from 18 national associations (federations) and over 600 private sector members in an industry worth over $100. Billion at the retail level and over 60 M tonnes in pulse production and distribution in over 55 countries.”* CICILS is headquartered in Dubai. Corn - Last year’s corn crop is diminishing nicely – enough for the local market and some sales to Guatemala (mainly for pig feed). The buyer of last fall’s bulk corn shipment (see last issue #27, pg 16) is negotiating for another bulk load, but supplies do not warrant another bulk sale until the new crop arrives. Guyana’s rice flood (flood of rice not water), now with a 2nd year of bumper rice crops, is still hampering Belize’s corn sales (see issue 27, pg 16 and this issue, pg 36). Some in the Caribbean switch cheap rice for our premium corn. Beans – Currently there is a world shortage for black eye peas and black eye prices are up. This would put Belize in a good situation except for the quality this year. The harvesting was still going on at time of the interview for this article, as there was a 6 wk. time span planting. The quality of the first planting does not indicate it reaches world market standards.
  • PUROXI: Hydrogen Peroxide Based Water Treatment Product Helps Protect and Increase Profits In All Types of Farming: About 3 yrs ago, Spanish Lookout poultry producer (broilers and layers), Dennis Dueck, heard about a water treatment product which helped farms obtain ‘clean, clear nutritional water’, and treated ‘water as a nutrient’ which would ‘boost the immune system’ of animals and at the same time ‘helped reduce dependency on antibiotics’ and even increase feed conversion rates. As this seemed almost too good to be true, Dennis followed up with more inquiries, then purchased a system and product. Eventually he became the country distributor for B.C. Canadian company, Puroxi Pure Water Global Inc. This led to the opportunity to expand distribution further into Latin America and the Caribbean. The home company has been in business for over 7 years, while the product is 17 years old. The company is now a leader in the water purification business. The science behind Puroxi Water is simply that it has found a way to stabilize hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and customize it with natural formulas which breaks down to oxygen and water once used. Viruses and many contaminants hate oxygen and/ or do not thrive in an oxygenated environment. Chlorine has been and is still commonly used in many industries as a disinfectant. Chlorine though, is very harsh, and actually some chlorine treated products, such as chicken meat cleaned with chlorine, are currently banned in the EU.
  • Nutrient-Smart Agriculture Arrives in Belize, HarvestPlus Agronomists Explain Biofortification: The recently concluded Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome, Italy, identified nutrition-sensitive agriculture as one of the priorities in the quest to end global hunger and malnutrition by 2025. The conference outcome commits world leaders (attendant 170 countries) to establish national policies aimed at eradicating malnutrition and transforming food systems to make nutritious diets available to all. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) two billion people worldwide suffer from hidden hunger. Twothirds of all deaths, globally, are now diet-related (The Lancet, 2012). Global food systems are failing because they have neglected the most fundamental purpose of the agricultural systems— to nourish people. The global community is now calling on agriculture to respond to what the Copenhagen Consensus has twice in the past few years identified as the greatest challenge facing humankind — poor nutrition caused by a lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet on a warming planet. We need to re-envision agriculture as the primary source of sound nutrition through the food people harvest and eat. This is a radical concept in the true sense of the word — returning to the root or fundamental purpose of agriculture.
  • Onion Research in Belize: In Belize, commercial onion (Allium cepa L.) production was started in 1988 through the efforts of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture (MNRA) formerly the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF). The objective was to promote diversification toward high income vegetable crops in the northern part of the country where most farmers were involved in sugarcane production. Because of falling sugar prices, the potential loss of preferential market and an ever increasing food importation bill, the ministry’s plan was to increase locally produced crops. Onion research started with the establishment of onion variety plots in the Cayo and Orange Walk Districts. After eight years of field evaluation, the results indicated that the northern part of country was most favorable for onion production due to its agro-ecological conditions. As a result, today the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts are the major producers of onion followed by the Belize District. Only a few farmers grow onion in the Cayo District.
  • ONION FIELD DAY in COROZAL: well-coordinated effort of Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture (MNRA) and their extension officers and Central Farm’s Crop Research and Development Unit, was held in Corozal District on Wednesday 25, 2015. Presentations were made at each farm, by MNRA and the Research Unit, while visiting onion trials at the private farms of Mr. Donicio Che, Mr. Santiago Masariego, Mr. Romaldo Escamilla and the Little Belize (Mennonite) Community. There were different planting times for each farm, caused by inclement rainy weather having delayed optimum planting time. Optimum planting time for the short-day length onions in northern Belize is October or November. Most were planted much later for the 2014/2015 season, even into January of 2015. Several of the farms also had severe problems with downy mildew, Peronospora destructor, caused by the wet cool weather.
  • Drop Into the Green - The Nohoch Ch’en Expedition: The seeds for the Nohoch Ch’en Expedition were planted years ago when Neil Rogers flew over the Chiquibul Forest and took the first images we had ever seen of the giant sinkhole. My husband, Jim Bevis, owner and operator of Mountain Equestrian Trails (MET), Cayo kept that photo above his desk for the next twenty odd years. This was one expedition he was determined to make happen. Jim approached Mr. Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director of Friends for Conservation & Development (FCD), for endorsement and to ensure that an expedition into this massive sinkhole would be beneficial to the development of the FCD Karst Management Program in this remote area of the Chiquibul. The answer was, “Let’s do it.” The purpose of the expedition would be to document one of the most remote, rugged and unexplored locations in Belize and to hopefully further justify to Belize and the world, the uniqueness and value of this region as a potential World Heritage site. The Nohoch Ch’en sinkhole, the largest of 49 collapsed doline formations that are located mostly over the Chiquibul Cave System, is located in an area where surface water is very scarce, making it challenging to explore for long periods of time. Very little scientific information was available for this region of the Chiquibul National Park, let alone the forest environment at the bottom of the 650’ wide and 450’ deep sinkhole. In the year 2000, several members of the Millennium Expedition descended by rope into the sinkhole and made brief observations, but time did not permit exploration and little data was collected, as this was not the main focus of their expedition.
  • Agriculture: The Continuing Pillar of Our Economy: By Zeidi Bowman of Atlantic Bank. Agricultural exports have increased by 32% from $322.2 million in 2011 to $481.0 million in 2014, and accounted for up to 80% of total exports in 2014, despite declining total export levels over the same period ($680.9 million in 2011 - $602.9 million in 2014) caused mainly by decreasing exports of crude petroleum. The traditional sub-sectors including marine products, sugar, citrus, and bananas have maintained their stronghold, while other non-traditional exports like pepper sauces, citrus oil (orange and grapefruit), grains, corn meal, and others accounted for 15% of the agricultural exports. Non- traditional exports have increased by 53% from $47.8 million in 2011 to $73.0 million in 2014, showing the growth trend in the sub-sectors. These figures show that the agriculture sector continues to be of economic significance and is classified as one of the strongest economic pillars of the Belizean economy. As export earners as well as an import substitute, all agricultural products give Belize its sustainable economic strength and its status as a serious trading partner in the region. The agriculture sector’s short and long-term prospects for Belizean prosperity continue as good and even better than they were in the era prior to oil exploration and exports.
  • DOE and Renco Work Together Recycling Batteries: Lead acid battery recycling is one of the most successful recycling programs in the world. In the United States 99% of all battery lead was recycled between 2009 and 2013. The two components that make this product hazardous are lead and sulfuric acid. Some lead compounds are extremely toxic. Long-term exposure to even tiny amounts of these compounds can cause brain and kidney damage, hearing impairment, and learning problems in children. In Belize the Department of the Environment (DOE) along with Renco Battery launched a lead acid battery recycling program in 2004 and it functioned for only about 2 years. Now they are trying to resurrect the program and collaborate with other retailers and the public.
  • Plastics to Oil : By Dottie Feucht. “Disposing of plastic is a global problem. Plastic comes from oil so why not convert it back to oil?” That’s what Japanese engineer, Akinori Ito, thought as his team set about to develop a machine to do just that. Plastic does not have to be broken down; it is put into the machine “as is” from garbage bags. The machine melts the plastic which becomes liquid which is passed through water. The result? Same as refined oil from which the plastic was made. 1 kg plastic = 1 liter of oil that can be used as fuel. “Waste is a treasure,” Mr. Ito emphasizes as he demonstrates his machines to school children who eagerly collect plastic waste for his machine. He estimates that this process, used globally, could reduce 80% of CO2 emissions.
  • The Sugar Industry Management Information System (SIMIS): SIMIS, initiated at the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) headquarters in Buena Vista Village, Corozal District, currently holds one of the largest agriculture databases in Belize. It includes soils data from the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), weather data, field data and pest (frog hopper) monitoring data. SIMIS is being developed as a collaborative effort among sugar industry stakeholders in northern Belize with funding from the European Union through the institutional strengthening project of SIRDI. Project implementation includes two phases Phase 1: • Development of a cane parcel database • Development of a farmer identification (ID) system • Establishment of a governance and management framework Phase 2: • Building of the SIMIS infrastructure • Development of a cane estimate process • Design and implementation of a harvest management system • Development of related proposals (Aerial, Photo etc.) Based on an estimate of approximately 79,000 acres of cane fields in the sugar belt, system personnel are currently conducting a sweep of the sugar belt to validate this data. Data collected and verified includes owner of cane fields, variety planted, age of cane, condition of cane field and a production estimate.
  • Luciano Sho TCGA's Cacao Farmer of the Year: Based on his keen interest and support of Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA), high producer of quality cocoa with excellent flavor characteristic, being a good role model and giving back to his community, Luciano Sho was chosen the TCGA farmer of the year in 2014. He inherited his father’s 3 acre farm and expanded it to 21 acres where he cultivates at least six thousand five hundred cacao trees including Criollo, Trinitario, and Forastero varieties. Having attended cacao growers seminars in other Central American countries Luciano has shared his new insights and helpful information with other TCGA farmers. As with many TCGA farmers, Luciano ferments and dries his beans on his farm before they are taken to the TCGA facility in San Antonio, Toledo. He ferments them in cascading special boxes 3.5 – 4 feet high and dries them on long tables under roof. Cacao beans are properly screened, bagged and sold in 125 pound bags with data identifying the farmer and dates of production. After arriving at the TCGA facility, the beans are tested for moisture and proper fermentation. Estevan Assi, TCGA’s compliance officer, is in charge of quality control and generally oversees the operation ensuring that quality for the markets are met.
  • Purple Corn Possibilities for More Than Ixpaxa and Tortillas: In August of 2014 the Belize Ag Report started a folder on purple corn, after noting the price for one pound on - a stunning US$8.95. Eight months later, April 2015, the price from the same brand ( on amazon has crept up to US$10.95/lb. The bulk (discounted) price on amazon from another supplier (Angelina’s Gourmet Purple Corn): US$55.40/25 lbs, and hold onto your hat, Natural Traditions Corn Powder, Purple, retails on amazon for US$18.42/3.5 ounces. What is so special about this corn to merit these astounding prices? Is the purple corn of Belize equally special, with export potential? Many countries around the world – USA, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, China, South Korea, Japan and Thailand are becoming interested in blue or purple corn varieties native to South and Central America, as they are unusually high in anthocyanin/ flabophen content, which is linked to anti-oxidant quality. In a trial at Ohio State University, Asst. Professor of Food Sciences Monica Giusti tested anthocyanins from different plant sources (including purple corn, grapes, radishes, chokeberries, bilberries, purple carrots and elderberries), to see how much of each source of anthocyanin it would take to reduce cancer growth (lab grown human colon cancer cells) by 50%.
  • The IICA Focus in Belize: The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) is focused on 4 central themes: family farming, resilience and climate change, value chains and inclusion and food security. IICA Belize has been working diligently at ensuring that our efforts reflect the needs of the country, taking into account IICA’s strengths, and the priorities identified in IICA’s 2014-2018 Medium Term Plan. Our priorities for 2015 will focus on selected value chains, continuing our work in support of the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI), launching new initiatives to support the cattle and processing sectors, and providing additional support to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture in rolling out the new National Agricultural and Food Policy.
  • The Associates Degree in Applied Agriculture - A Competency-Based Approach to Agriculture Training at UBCF: Youth and Sports (MOEYS), the agriculture program at The University of Belize Central farm (UBCF) has undergone realignment to make it more demand-driven. This initiative, known as CARICOM Education for Employment (C-EFE), is funded by the Canadian government, partner colleges of western Canada namely, Lakeland, Parkland, and Bow Valley, and UB. It is designed to link education to employment in preparing graduates for the workplace. The new curriculum focuses on knowledge, skills, and attitude development with training expanded to include significant workplace practice. Students will be prepared for several career paths based on a recently conducted labor market survey undertaken by the college. Graduates of the new program are also eligible for direct entry into the second year of the Bachelor of Science degree of the University of the West Indies (UWI) at the St. Augustine campus.
  • BLPA’S AGM - A Rousing Success: An enthusiastic and positive group of approximately 80 ranchers from all over Belize converged at their headquarters at Mile 47 ½ George Price Hwy. on February 28th, for the AGM of the Belize Livestock Producers Association (BLPA). Chairman Abdala Bedran opened the meeting with reports of a whopping 240% increase in cess collections, and healthy monthly accounting reports by Owen Codd. Chairman Bedran continued with good news for the Belizean cattle industry. BLPA has met with counterparts in Guatemala, the senior livestock officer for Peten and BLPA joined as a member and attended the meeting for Federación Centroamericana del Sector Cárnico Bovino (Fecescabo) in Guatemala City. By aligning with Fecescabo, BLPA will enjoy their lobbying and marketing benefits. Beef prices here are almost the same as the rest of Central America. Fecescabo is working to harmonize phyto-sanitary and quality standards for our region. By becoming part of this Central American trading block, BLPA members will enjoy the same privileges. For example, if fellow member Nicagagua contracts to sell to the EU, Belize would be enabled for that as well.
  • Seaweed: A Garden’s Gift from the Sea: While at the beach several weeks ago, I watched as workers from one of the resorts raked the seaweed along the shoreline back into the sea. The sea, naturally, washed it right back up onto the beach. I knew that seaweed could be beneficial to the garden, so I asked one of the workers to bag me up some and I brought it home for my kitchen garden. I even suggested to him that he could probably make a business harvesting the seaweed and selling it to organic gardeners. He seemed to like that idea and said that many people from his village in the south knew about the benefits of using seaweed in their gardens. And, indeed, for thousands of years, seaweed has been used by coastal farmers in their gardens because it has a full range of properties to enhance the soil and benefit the plants. Seaweed supplies bulk material to condition the soil and it contains approximately 60 trace elements, as well as growth hormones and plant nutrients. It is anti-fungal and helps prevent many plant diseases. Imbalances in the soil, such as nitrogen deficiency, can be fixed by adding seaweed because it can balance the soil’s environment so that nitrogen-fixing bacteria are encouraged. The sand and salt in the seaweed contain elements that actually benefit plants, so unless your soil already has a high sodium content there is no need to wash it before placing it around your plants.
  • Young Botanists Learn About Plants at Caves Branch: are usually about 80 spikes,” explained Marvin, staff member at Caves Branch, to the group of Standard 3 students from Valley of Peace School. He was describing the largest orchid in Caves Branch garden, the Shower of Gold (Oncidium sphacelatom). Incorporating math into their field trip, he asked the students to pick a number between 180 and 220; 211 was the choice. “OK, now, let’s estimate how many blossoms this orchid may have this year. Let’s multiply 211, the number of flowers each spike can produce, by 83, the approximate number of spikes.” Wow! 17,513 blossoms! In the first year, 2011, there were 4,576; each year the number of blossoms has increased. In 2014 there were 13,652. through the activities; so all three groups estimated the number of blossoms. Staff members David and Sayuri taught the students how to take field notes the way botanists do when they find plants in their natural habitat. The students chose a plant and determined its type (epiphyte-grows on trees; lithophyte (grows on rocks; terrestrial (grows in soil), carefully measured the distance from the ground the plant grew, wrote down the exact GPS coordinates, and examined the plant to note its characteristics. Each group took an herbarium with proper instruction for preparing and caring for it.
  • Developing the Rice Industry in Belize: Establishing a ‘Culture of Rice’: Commercial rice production in Belize has a relatively short history. Small farmers in the south produce rice; the larger mechanized Mennonite communities in the north and west produce most of the 21.6M pounds annual consumed in Belize. At a Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture (MNRA) policy meeting in December 2013, the moderator, then IICA Country Representative Dr. Muhammed Ibrahim was asked, “What does Guyana have {regarding rice production} that Belize does not have?” He did not hesitate to reply, “Guyana has a culture of rice.” Years of raising a crop will eventually endow a farming populace with a “culture” of that crop. Until that time, the rice producers of Belize are doing their best to progress on that learning curve, while taking all the risks with which the agriculture sector is familiar, and of which the typical consumer is unaware. Look at last year’s drought up north, which drastically reduced production up there and created a shortage for the domestic rice market. Prospective importer, Mr. Jack Charles of Extra House Imports, has requested, and been denied by MNRA, a permit to import 500,000 lbs of rice from Guyana. Guyana has had a bumper rice crop, and is doing all she can to export same, even to the point of disrupting a portion of Belize’s corn exports for animal feed (corn being replaced with cheap rice in some feeds).
  • Organic Produce Available in San Ignacio Market: There is now an easy way for consumers to purchase fresh organic produce at the San Ignacio Open Air Market on Saturday mornings. There is a growing customer base who have been pleased with the system of ordering fruits and vegetables by phone or e-mail and picking up and paying for produce from the SACOGA booth. To order produce for delivery to the San Ignacio Open Air Market on Saturdaym, please send an e-mail to or call Abdias Mesh, 674- 8064. Once you are on the customer list, about midweek you will receive a message listing what produce is available and what the prices are. POB and SACOGA meet in the San Ignacio area once or twice a month. Meetings are open to all who want to support organics in Belize. Send a message to Pro-Organic Belize proorganicbelize@ or call 677-9658.
  • “Earth Day Endorsement for San Antonio, Cayo Organic Growers Association”: Pro Organic Belize is pleased to announce the commencement of a formalized agreement between Pro Organic Belize and the farmers known as San Antonio Cayo Organic Growers Association (SACOGA) thus paving the way for full organic certification in the near future. Of special significance is the fact that the agreement occurred on Earth Day which is very appropriate as organic farming uses sustainable practices rather than destructive ones. Essentially this agreement comes from a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) which encompasses both these groups. All members of the PGS participate in an aspect of promoting organic practices, whether it be farming, or education. This agreement is an important step for Pro Organic Belize as a future organic certification body for locally grown and produced organic food in the Cayo District. All over the world the question is, Who’s Your Farmer? Pro Organic Belize encourages you to know your farmer, know your food, and know your vendor. Personal relationships based on mutual agreement, and the integrity of those involved lead to a safer food supply for Belize. Pro Organic Belize is committed to a better informed public, and increased food security on a country wide basis.The signing of this agreement brings the nation of Belize one large step forward in the worldwide organic farming movement.
  • Sub-surface drip irrigation (SDI) systems have bright future in helping feed growing world population.: Throughout the world currently, only about 6 percent of the land is under drip irrigation. John Vikupitz, president and CEO of Netafim USA, which sells SDI systems says, “This is sort of a bold statement, but we think flood irrigation will become a thing of the past throughout most of the world in the next 50 years. It’s simply not a sustainable practice. We have too many people entering the world, too many hungry mouths to feed and not enough clean water to drink. We’re undergoing a transformative time here where the convergence of environment, technology and culture are forcing change, and we intend to lead that change. It’s not just about producing drip irrigation components; it’s about teaching growers how to use them most effectively and how to maximize yields by using the least amount of water, the least amount of fertilizer, using the resources you have most efficiently.”
  • The Connection Between Central American Farmers and Deadlier Tornadoes in the U.S.: Scientists at the University of Iowa have recently published an article linking smoke from the burning of agricultural fields in Central America to more intense tornadoes in the US. Pablo Saide, post doctoral student at the University of Iowa and a coauthor of the study, said smoke drifting north from the Yucatán peninsula, which includes parts of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, changed two key conditions for the 2011 tornadoes. First, it lowered the height of the cloud base, which dropped 650 feet. It also changed the wind shear, which is a variation in vertical wind speed. Both conditions intensify tornadoes. Tornado season in the United States has grown deadlier in recent years, and 2011 was one of the worst, spawning 1,691 twisters. “Even without the smoke drifting up north, there would still have been an unusual number of tornadoes in 2011, but we found the smoke changed the parameters,” said Pablo Saide.
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International Sourcesizz

Another earthquake for Barbados.. too close for comfort
The Seismic Research Centre of the University of the West Indies (UWI) recorded another small earthquake off Barbados this morning, the second this week. The 4.5 magnitude tremor occurred 2:33 a.m., 142 km east southeast of Bridgetown, 317 km northeast of Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago, and 320 km east of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines. It occurred at a depth of 10 km.

McHenry County College to offer field studies in Belize
The caves and rain forests of Belize will serve as the classroom for an upcoming field study course offered by McHenry County College. The course, Temples and Tropical Forest Field Studies in Belize, combines technology and in-person study to explore anthropology, biology and geology. Worth three credit hours, the class begins in October and is co-taught by three instructors. It combines eight weeks of online instructions and six days of hands-on learning through cultural interaction and field study in Belize. Students will interview local Belizians, visit St. Herman’s Cave, take a medicinal plant hike in the rain forest, and tour a cacao plantation, baboon sanctuary, Mayan ruins and an iguana conservation. Cave tubing also is included.

Agoura teens bring back lessons from Belize
During their spring break, Agoura High School teachers Todd Shipley and Gerald Pickett joined Lynn Bealer of the Strong Villages charity in taking 13 students on a weeklong service-oriented trip to Belize.

UNM team studies climate change in Belizean cave
In the jungles of southernmost Belize, close to Guatemala and Honduras, there’s a cave the locals call Yok Balum, which means the Jaguar’s Paw. It’s a cave ripe with riches but, like all respectable treasure caves, it’s difficult to reach. From the nearest village, it’s a 90-minute trek along muddy, overgrown trails favored by venomous snakes. And there’s a river, the Rio Blanco, that must be forded. Sometimes crossing the river is inconvenient, sometimes it’s perilous and sometimes it’s impossible. “I’ve seen the river when it was ankle deep, I’ve crossed it when it was up to my neck and I’ve seen it when it was 20 feet deep,” said Keith Prufer, associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico. “It can rise within hours.” Like Prufer, Yemane Asmerom, UNM professor of earth and planetary sciences, has been up to his neck in the treacherous waters of the Rio Blanco, surrendering his usual sound reasoning to overconfidence in his determination to reach the cave and the prizes it holds. The lure is not gold, silver or jade, but scientific revelation.

Turkey quest: Welcome to the jungle
The quest for a turkey World Slam has taken Kevin Miller of Inverness thousands of miles, and he's hunted under many different conditions, but on his recent hunt for the ocellated turkey, he entered a place as wild as they come. Miller zig-zagged across the nation in 2013 and harvested all four North American species of turkeys for his Grand Slam. In 2014, he headed to Chihuahua in northern Mexico to complete a Royal Slam with a Gould's turkey. This year, he made his way to the jungles of Campeche near the southern tip of Mexico. "It was probably one of the toughest hunts I've ever been on," Miller said. "They don't gobble like a normal turkey does. "They don't run in packs of a hundred. I've seen birds in Nebraska flocked up with 30 to 40. They (ocellated) run in twos and threes, from what I saw." Miller was hunting near the borders of Belize and Guatemala and said the birds will gobble on the roost, but generally remain silent while on the ground. That in itself presented a challenge.


  • ‘Rent-a-Foreigner in China’, 7min. In this short documentary, housing developers in China hire ordinary foreigners to pose as celebrities to raise flagging property sales.

  • Leave marine wildlife alone!, 2min. Absolutely brilliant educational video! MarAlliance's Conservation Video Workshop is pleased to present the runner up video by Houston Zoo's Renee Bumpus and MarAlliance's Rachel Graham. Enjoy!

  • Belize's Logwood: The Dye of Kings, 5min. Frantz Smith and Freddie Tut talk about logwood, and the history of the tree in Belize. They do this at the Belize Botanic Gardens, which is the perfect spot. "Watch the red dye flowing from Belize's logwood tree. Logwood grew in lowlands near rivers, lagoons and on the coast. These trees were readily found and cut down using axes and the bark was removed on-site. The logs were then chopped into small blocks which were piled along the rivers then transported in wagons or long yemeri or cedar pitpans to a central storehouse at the settlement at the mouth of the Belize River."

  • Scuba diving in Belize, 2min. Scuba diving impressions from Belize, Nov 2014.

  • Travel: Playa del Carmen to Belize, 2min.

  • Where we'd rather be...., 3.5min. Bob, Camo and I following no-one, and doing nothing in particular around Mexico and Belize

  • Belize Solo Kayak Trip, 5min. Some footage from a solo kayak trip in South Water Caye marine reserve, Belize.

  • Belize, 5min. A trip from Houston to Belize diving in the blue hole.

  • belize spring break 2015, 4min. "best of belize" april 2015. best week of my life!!

  • Hol Chan and San Pedro, 2min. MarAlliance is pleased to share the short documentaries produced by participants during our Conservation Video Training Workshop hosted in partnership with the Houston Zoo. Belize Audubon Society's Dirk Francisco and MarAlliance's Cecilia Guerrero shot and edited the winning two minute video from scratch to finish in 1.5 days. We will show all team videos over the course of the next few days.