On April of last year the European Union funded a project known as Promoting Agro Business in Northern Belize. The project was implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Ministry of Agriculture as a backup in case the price of sugar in preferential market saw a drop.
The project saw the birth of the Value Chain Approach, geared towards the improvement of the production of onions, honey and sheep. In the area of onion production the project counted with a Farmer’s Field School where for 19 weeks onion producers learnt how to improve the production and productivity of onion in Northern Belize.
On Thursday March 17th, 28 farmers were awarded for successfully completing the 19 weeks of class in a ceremony at Centro Escolar Mexico marking the end of the project but not the end of the working relationship between the famer, extension officers and F.A.O.
Plant Production and Protection Officer Dr. Vyanjayanthi Lopez
“The Project is funded by the European Union to the food and agriculture organization, it is being implemented by the food and agriculture organization and that are three value chains that we are promoting the development of under this particular project; one of the value chains is Onions and the other two being honey and sheep production, the fields activity carried out was aimed at improving the production and productivity of onions in Northern Belize in Corozal and Orange Walk Districts there were two components one was training the extension officers in the use of participating approaches, developing their skills and they will use those skills and then to train farmers in the farmer fields schools so we would have had fourteen farmers Patchakan and fourteen farmers from Orange Walk, San Carlos participating in the field school. The Field School starts from planting the crop in the field up to harvest and post-harvest to addressing all the issues so the farmers meet on a weekly basis to observe the crop and based on the stage of the crop and what they find in the crop they make a join decision and on to what treatment is needed.”
During the sessions famers also learnt how to deal with the challenges they face during production in order to increase their income.
Project Manager Gabino Canto
“Right now we have fourteen farmers in Corozal and fourteen farmers in Orange Walk and the purpose of it is actually to look at the productivity of the Onion fields in Corozal and Orange Walk and assist the farmers to look at the loop holes that is keeping them back from producing good quality Onions and more efficiently because we are implementing a value chain project that they can generate an income for themselves and probably expand in the end and I think our contribution to the diversification here in Corozal and Orange Walk will be very positive.”
As for farmers, while they were grateful for the opportunity offered, they plead to the relevant authorities to assist them in the fight against the illegal entry of contraband onions which is the major hurdle they face.
“Hoy es un día muy importante para nosotros porque nos hemos graduado del proyecto de la Unión Europea donde nos apoyaron para un escuela de campo y para nosotros fue un éxito y claro lo que queremos producir al final del día es calidad y volumen y lo que demanda el consumidor, eso del contrabando es muy serio para nosotros porque competimos con el precio mayormente entonces queremos decirle al ministerio responsable del control de importación a BAHA o a Customs o los de cuarentena que trabajemos de la mano a mano para nosotros podamos vender el producto local y así que el consumidor tenga un precio justo y un producto saludable.”
The Ministry of Agriculture representatives assured farmers that they will do their best to assist them in the sale of their product in the local market and with the issue of Contraband.