GreenIn an effort to minimize the main sources of unintentional formation and release of dioxins and furans the Department of the Environment and the Belize Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) today hosted one of three scheduled field days focused on green harvesting by using mechanical harvesting, and creating a seed bank of 10 acres with 4 to 5 varieties of sugar cane.


These demonstrations will serve to encourage cane farmers to decrease burning of cane and to support a clean and healthy environment.  According to Head of Project Evaluation for DEO, Jorge Franco, through the demonstrations the department seeks to reduce organic pollutants.


Jorge Franco Head of Project Evaluation DOE


“Our involvement in the project is sponsoring the activity which we will refer to as the Green Harvest Demonstration to cane farmers, this is an initiative under the Belize Chemicals and Waste Management project, this project has two major components. (1) is to dispose of the current inventory stock piles of persistent organic pollutants as well as to reduce the emissions from burning these are to reduce emissions dioxins and furans which we refer to as unintentional persistent organic pollutants from the burning of cane fields in the agriculture sector, what we did is to we entered in to an agreement with SIRDI to promote the reduction of burning so as to reduce the production of these unintentional persistent organic pollutants.”


Traditionally, sugarcane has been burned prior to harvest. While the method has proven to be quick and efficient, the smoke and ash does contribute to the unwanted release of emission and pollutants in the environment.


Jorge Franco Head of Project Evaluation DOE


“The first activity that we did was to prevent the second burning to post harvesting, we were successful in that we had several hundred acres that we prevented the second burning thus reducing the emissions of unintentional persistent organic pollutants and we furthered then the project from that success to move on to promoting re-harvesting to show the farmers that there are alternative measures so that we could reduce the emissions and so today after extending our agreement with SIRDI we promoted this activity to show to farmers using mechanical means that it is feasible to actually do green harvesting and thus allowing us and illustrating that we can further promote this activity so that as a country we could move forward environmentally sustainable and sustainably promoting the cane industry.”


But what would happen to the hundreds of cane cutters who depend on the slash and burn method to earn a living? That is a topic that will have to be discussed among all stakeholders says Franco.


Jorge Franco Head of Project Evaluation DOE


“The issue with cane cutters will be one that we would have to address along with SIRDI and the cane growers because at this stage we are only at piloting this activity to see if it is feasible subsequently we would then have to look at those environmental and additional social issues so at this stage we are just trying to see if it is feasible enough for us to prolong this activity and again these activities at this stage is to only to meet one of our specific objectives through this project, the social issues we would have to address at a later date based on determining whether actually cane farmers to want to continue or want to engage in this re-harvesting because at this stage whilst we have a lot of positive feedback from cane growers that they want to be involve we are not sure so at this stage we are very much difficult to for us to say that we will not do manual harvesting anymore so those issues would have to be addressed at a future date once cane farmers now are fully on board and agree that ok we will start and we will only do green harvesting. I would like to say that I am very much pleased to see that we have a lot of cane growers out here today and they showed their interest, they’ve asked a lot of questions, they showed us that they are very much interested and hopefully we can engage them in furthering and promoting the cane industry in doing such activities in and environmentally sound manner so we are hoping that we can increase the amount of acreages that are being green harvested through mechanical means in the next coming harvesting, again it is very good for us and we feel very positive that we see this involvement from cane farmers in this area.”


SIRDI representatives present at the demonstration today stated that while there is a concern for the loss of jobs that the green harvesting method could create, there is always diversification.

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