REPORT #336 June 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

E Commerce in Belize seems to be doing well. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of websites for small Belizean businesses. No one has bothered to count them, but on the Belize Electronic Resource and Development Library we keep adding their links for reference purposes, when we find them. Both Marty Casado and Tony Rath have done wonders and kindnesses to many very small Mom & Pop businesses by either swapping a web site for some service, or making web pages for FREE. While bigger businesses must pay, many small one person businesses in Belize would not be on the internet if it wasn't for the kindness of these two competitive gentlemen.

The sad thing is, that government policies have created a situation wherein 99% of the E-Commerce of Belize are situated on servers and websites in FOREIGN countries. There is no financial reason why this is so. For an ISP, or Internet Service Provider can be in business providing web space and mounting services locally for less than a $1000 bz currency using an older computer and Linnux Red Hat software.

The reasons why Belizean E-Commerce is foreign based ,is purely political. Local politics! When the internet situation first developed in Corozal years ago, the Belize Telecommunications Monopoly had a strangledhold on telephone communications. When the internet was introduced by private entrepreneurial efforts, they managed to convince the PUP government of the time, that the internet fell under their telecommunications monopoly. It was a ridiculous idea then and is just as ridiculous today. ISP services utilize a local telephone company services but provide a different type of service through the lines of a local telephone company. It is like saying if a school uses a telephone for DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMS from the University of Belize, that the Distance Learning Programs belong to the telecommunications monopoly for which they are going to charge service fees. At the time, the self styled LEADERS of the PUP party from the Port Town, had through the government, a large stake in shares in the then BTL monopoly and it was argued internally, that to allow internet providers to blossom countrywide would rob the monopoly of revenues. The PUP and self styled leaders from the merchant service class in the port town wanted the government in Belmopan which is their breadbasket and job source, to get as much of the business revenue in the country as possible in order to be able to support their chosen lifestyle as self appointed leaders of the nation.

What really is needed in Belize are many Internet Service Providers nationwide, each serving local geographic areas. But this situation is also compounded by lack of competitive phone companies working under some sort of line and equipment sharing cost arrangement like in more business orientated democratic countries. The major problem for an ISP entrepreneur, being the cost of hookup to the telephone company at no fee local rates. Rather than a long distance fee, from say Barranco to the BTL switchboard in far away Belize City in the middle and north of the country.

One supposes one day, multiple phone companies and Internet Service Providers will proliferate in Belize, but don't hold your breath, while the country is governed by self appointed leaders out of the market merchandising town up north in the middle of the country. E-Commerce still is going to develop for Belizeans DESPITE GOVERNMENT, but unfortunately on servers and via ISP services in foreign countries. More jobs and money going overseas! Some policy, some leadership? Pah!

The BUY NOW, PAY LATER self appointed leadership of the PUP port town gang in the PUP party has ballooned the national debt. Last reports from the Minister of Finance said that debt service of the nation over the last year had risen from 15% of GDP to 34% of GDP.

The BOOM and BUST cyle of Belizean mediocricity, cycles around 4 year and 8 year cycles of the mean average created by one party win all type electioneering. It would be a nice thing if some UCB student would wander over to the National Library and look up the January, February issues of the REPORTER newspapers for the last 25 years and find out what each previous year revenues of the government were, for the total 25 years. Then calculate an average. An exponential average would be better yet. Then we would know what the actual budget for next year should actually be, using the average.

Farmers that went into organic cacao farms in large acreage complain that loss of soil fertility for cacao farmers after three years was met by lack of affordable compost sources. They claim they were given hairbrained advice by the agricultural and marketing experts.

Citrus farmers apparently have the same problem. The plan had been to use citrus waste as organic compost, but for some reason this doesn't work alone. In order to be classified organic, you have to have three years of continuous chemical free production. The thin soils of Belize without fertilizer, either organic, or chemical are depleted in two to three years. Also transportation costs from the citrus processing plant for citrus waste would run up the costs of the compost.

Belizean farmers say they got bad advice from the experts! It works they say on small scale, wherein you produce your compost at home in small quantities, but not for large orchards.

Something is missing here from this equation? Compost is a must in organic farming. Organic farming is also more labor intensive. While chemical farming is labor intensive only in seasonal spurts. Organic farming requires much more labor. For one thing, fertilizer can also be added by combining multiple row cropping between orchard tree rows. Compost has to be produced locally on the orchard, or farm and spread regularly. If Belizean farmers do not understand that COMPOST creation is at the heart of the organic farming, then the lines of communication between the experts and farmers are not open enough. You cannot farm the old way organically. Instead of seasons, it switches to year round work. From a labor viewpoint, somewhat more intensive. There probably is a breakeven point on farm size and ability to provide compost, but I would bet there are tropical solutions. While barns and animals in mixed farming may not be practical for say cacao or citrus growers, it would seem that the production of chickens as a cash crop would add considerable sources of manure for combining with underbrush cuttings and baled hay rakes spread on compost piles. Lot more work though! Being in the tropics, just maybe Belizean tropical farmers don't want to work that hard to go into mixed farming?

There are some neat endurance races worldwide. Belize doesn't really have any yet. But Victoria Peak might be one, if it was organized and advertised world wide. As a tourism draw it is premium advertising!

If you want to consider marathon endurance races, you should consider the "Marathon Des Sables". Every April, in Casablanca, Morocco, entrants from around the world gather to start one of the most grueling race competitions in the world. This is a 150 mile hellish foot race across the Sahara Desert. The start is at Quarzate a small city that is entrance to the Sahara. The race goes on for days. A good portion of the hundreds of entrants are going to be hit by heatstroke, bursting oozing feet, diareahea, and wondering what the hell they were thinking when they paid $2400 USA, not including the airfare to suffer like this.

The sport is part masochism and the competition requires that competitors must carry everything they will need in a backpack for the seven days, six stage event. There are mandatory requirements, a sleeping bag, a flashlight with spare batteries, ten saftey pins, compass, cigarette lighter, knife, salt tablets, or rehydration packages, disinfectant, anti-venom snake serum, whistle, signaling mirrors. Add food and a few personal items and you have a load you are not going to run with much the first few days. The Marathon of the Sands is designed to torture the body and mind and purify the soul. It will make whimpering infants of grown men and women. In the end after their bodies break and peel and bleed, they will probably sign up to run again, next year.

When you consider daytime heat of 120 degrees, blisters, and all that. It is not surprising, many drop out of the race before they even start, from fear! The first stage is 14.4 miles. Nothing more than a morning jog for your average city runner. The first stage fools first timers though, even though it is across dry riverbeds, ankle cracking rocks, etc.!

The first prize is $4,500 USA and a lot of Moroccans enter. In the second stage when the heat is 120 degrees in the shade, runners often collapse to their knees. If you ask them if the competition is physical or mental, they will say mental. Dung hungry flies and gnats nibble runners faces if they stop. Odd people run in this race. There is a 68 year old YOGI. A 42 year old USA Nike representative, who has a rare disease that collapses his face and is running for a non-profit fund raiser. "Operation Smile". There is even a blind boxer from France. A Vietnam veteran who lost his leg to a landmine and is running with a prosthesis. Most contestants finish the second day stage which takes them up the rocky ascent of Mount Amgane Ouchene and down through hot melting dunes. Day Three loses modesty as press photographers cruise by contestants in landrovers, while they squat and defecate in the sand among the fleas. Toilet paper blows away in the hot searing winds like confetti. Complaints at the night camp surround the lead runners. The packs are too light the laggards say. There is no way they could be carrying the compulsory supplies. Anke Mokethin a tanned German woman is running for the fourth time. Her pack is no bigger than a loaf of bread and her legs are graceful like a greyhound.

Patrick Bauer started this race, with a trek across the desert. He stares now from the hood of a landrover looking at the contestants wondering how large the race can get and still retain the spiritual inquisition aspects of the course, rather than just a race. The race gets tough on day four. A steep climb through mud and heat, which forces eighteen constestants to drop out. One guy, one year got lost and spent nine days wandering in the desert alone. He barely survived. He got lost in a sandstorm. The race had been halted, but he missed the call and took off running anyway. There is a 50 mile leg next. Everybody dreads this part. Front runners will do it in a day. Laggards will take two days and a night to get through. Day Six is the 26.2 miler. Feet now are twice the normal size and while the marathon distance might be familiar, no one looks the same anymore. Those that are left have lost many pounds of surplus body weight. An American Raymond Nyce in a running interview knows he is closing up and doing well. For he says, everyone he passes now are very skinny. That night Lisa Smith with a fractured bone, curles up in a fetal position in her tent, running a high fever and nauseated. The hardest thing she has ever done, she says. Day Seven is a breeze theoretically. It is only eight miles through a palm filled village oasis and up a paved road. The first civilization anyone has seen in a week. Sixty three of five hundred competitors are known to have dropped out. Those who finish now, scream and cry, and kiss the ground. The memories of pain, hunger, the stench of their own bodies, the gnats and fleas, the blisters, crotch rot, dunes and hours of waiting for the start will fade. They will remember only the challenge, the force of WILL, the overcoming and the satisfaction they feel as the result. Many will be back next year.

Can a race up to Victoria Peak in Belize and back down again, match this?

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