Farming communities in Cayo South have reverted back to the days of bartering and have started a trading initiative amongst themselves with the aim to assist each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative began after a meeting between the village chairpersons and the Area Representative for Cayo South, Julius Espat. The chairpersons realized that they each had a surplus of a certain crop and decided to trade what they have for what they need. According to Julius Espat, the initiative has brought the communities closer together and has alleviated some of the pressures from COVID-19.
Julius Espat, Cayo South Area Representative: “The reality is that the people need food. There’s no transportation to and from the village because that has been cut off, there is no employment because people can’t go to work and so we have to find a way for people to be able to access food. The pantry and boost program is taking quite a long time and a lot of people in our rural communities cannot access it because they don’t have access to internet and some don’t even have telephone, they don’t have a bank account, it’s been difficult. So we had a meeting with our village leaders and the idea came up that why don’t we use the products that we produce and so it started from there and then our committee got donations and we provided our own resources to be able to provide the villagers with grains. In the Cayo district and specifically Cayo South we have access to corn, soybean, red kidney beans, we had access to some sugar, we had access to rice and other stuff and then the villagers have all the vegetables that they produce. So it started in the Chairlady, Esperanza Ariaza from St.Matthews got some bananas donated and she distributed these bananas to the other village leaders and namely Valley of Peace, St.Margaret, Cotton Tree, and Franks Eddy and in return the other chairman gave of their product; the Valley of Peace gave I believe it was cabbage, tomatoes and cilantro, Franks Eddy and the others gave some of that plus sweet pepper and other stuff that they produce. Then the guys, the Chairman of St.Margaret he donated oranges and limes and so we’ve been circulating the products between villages and it has worked really well apart from having access to the food items it has created a better level of camaraderie and community spirit and so you have turned a negative somehow a little bit positive, we can never been one hundred percent positive but we’re trying to find the best that we can out of the difficult situation.”
Espat also noted that there needs to be more investments made into the agriculture sector.
Julius Espat, Cayo South Area Representative: “What positive can we take out ? I think what we can learn from this is that government, any government needs, to start investing in the agro productive sector. If we purchase the products from our local suppliers especially the vegetables, the grains, the cattle and we in turn sell that produce within our communities and explain to our people that we have to stop buying imported products. Two reasons, the imported products are unhealthy, the corn beef that we eat, that chicken sausage that we eat, especially the ramen that we eat and those other imported items are detrimental to our health. It increases our high blood pressure, it increases our diabetes and other sicknesses whereas we could invest in the economy of the agro productive sector and at the same time feed our people much healthier. Why haven’t we done it ? I don’t know. What we should do ? We are showing the example that it can happen and so government needs to spend a lot of people’s money where I believe priority lies and priority is spending it in the agro productive sector which will be able to produce employment and we will eat healthier.”