Belize will strengthen its response to the socioeconomic hardship caused by COVID-19 with a US$8 million reallocation of funds from the World Bank to support the country's agricultural sector and improve food security in the context of the pandemic. The programme will benefit more than 8,700 agricultural households in the country.

“Agriculture is essential to support lives and livelihoods in Belize, particularly during this challenging period. This financing will assist farmers who have been affected by COVID-19 and drought and increase farmers' ability to provide food for the nation,” said Tahseen Sayed, World Bank country director for the Caribbean.

Measures taken to prevent the further outbreak of the pandemic, such as the closing of borders, have caused interruptions in agricultural supply chains and a decline in economic activity.

Many farmers have lost revenue due to the decline in tourism, disruption in export markets, and reduction in domestic spending caused by job losses. The agricultural sector has also experienced drought since last year.

The World Bank said the reallocated funds will provide support for agricultural households severely affected by the pandemic or drought and whose commodities contribute to food security and socioeconomic development.

The support to affected farmers will include funds for the purchase of eligible agricultural inputs, cash transfers to small farmers and women involved in agriculture, provision of small agricultural equipment and protective equipment, as well as technical support.

This programme will benefit agricultural households that are registered in the Belize Agricultural Information Management System (BAIMS) and that are producing selected commodities that are severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic or the 2019 and 2020 droughts. Specific details on eligibility criteria will be published by the Government of Belize prior to roll-out.

These funds were accessed using the Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC) of the Belize Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project.

CERCs allow funds to be reallocated from existing projects to address emergency response needs.

Jamaica Observer