Today, twenty eight farmers from the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts were celebrated for successfully completing phase one of the Promoting Agribusiness Development Project in Northern Belize. The project is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization and it targets small time onion producers in the north. They were trained on how to properly prepare farm land and apply best practices in order to produce quality onions for the Belizean market. We spoke to Project Manager, Gabino Canto.
“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 loopholes; what it is that they are doing that they don’t know that is keeping them back from doing good quality onion and more efficiently. Because we are implementing what you call a value chain approach.”
“What are some of the mal practices that these farmers were doing before the initiative ?”
“One of them is actually the over use of pesticides, and the overuse of fertilizers and so those are the two key things that they are doing, they are just pumping the fertilizers and pesticides into the field and they realize now that by managing the field properly which is what we did, they cut down on the cost of production by about 20% and producing more onions. We used for instance about a half-acre of a cane field which has been said that the cane field is no longer productive. We used that and we produced good quality onion. In three moths time that area produced over 350 bags of onion which the farmers are selling at $60 per bag. Imagine over $18,000 in a half acre of sugar cane field. One of the things that we are doing is actually to show farmers in Corozal and Orange Walk that there are other activities other than sugar cane that they can use to make money and generate income and also employment and so those are the key areas we are talking about and actually accomplishing that.”
According to Canto, two storage units will be constructed for the famers to store their onions, in order to extend their shelf life. Plant Production and Protection Officer for the Food and Agriculture Organization, Vjyayanthi (VYE-JAY-ANTI) Lopez, says that the project was a success.
“Remember you are dealing with three value chains; onion, sheep production and honey production. So it’s a pretty large project. I think we have a little more than a year left in the project right now to implement so the focus now shifts. We have been doing some work on sheep production and honey so we will not move more into that as we go forward. We will continue with onions into next year also with the harvest and post harvest issues.”
“What is the magnitude of the investment?”
“The funding from the European Union is about $1 million and FAO has provided half a million.”
“How would you rate the participation of farmers , would you say that this first part was a success.”
“Why do you think you saw the farmers and they spoke about it today, what do you think? Do you agree that it was successful? I visited them yesterday and the day before but the day before yesterday we went to Orange Walk and Corozal and it was the same experience in both areas even though they are different farmers and have different challenges and this is not the first time that we have had similar experience. We have done field schools in the Caribbean since 2002, we started off with the European Union funding in Trinidad and Tobago in 2002 that would have been done in five to six countries of the region then we would have more such as Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, we have done field schools in a lot of countries right now in St.Kitts and Nevis we have an ongoing field school so it’s a unique experience in each place. No two field schools are the same, it all depends on what the farmers want, how they work together and all of that so that determines how the field schools proceeds.”
About one point five million US dollars is being invested in the project.