Dozens of farmers are in Colombia participating in a three-month training in agriculture. The training is funded by the Colombian Government. Farmers representing 4 districts successfully applied. The Belize and Stann Creek districts are not being represented. That has caused a bit of stir on social media and reporter Vejea Alvarez has the story.
On Sunday, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Jose Mai said it was unfortunate that not a single farmer from the Belize District was selected to be sent to Columbia for training in agriculture.
Hon. Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture: It’s unfortunate I didn’t see anybody from Stan Creek and from Belize district so I need to ask my staff why that is so. I wanted to see that every district has someone on this trip.”
Farmers living on the Old Northern Highway say they feel they were left out of an opportunity that would have greatly benefited them and their community.
Oscar Pollard, Farmer of Rural Belize: “What is most touching is that these agricultural personnel they pass by my house two or three times a week, they see me. I have a large area that I am cultivating on approximately 7 acres I just cleared and you know we have not been informed about any project or assistance that they’re giving.”
Sarah Chub, Farmer of Rural Belize: “I think it is very painful because the majority of us that live through this Old Northern Highway live off farming and no one has been contacted about this.”
Jose Miranda, Farmer of Rural Belize: “I feel bad but the same way we can’t do anything. I think it’s something really bad to a lot of farmers in Lucky Strike because if you take a record to all the farmers in Lucky Strike I don’t think anyone took that trip.”
According to Emilio Montero, Coordinator of the National Food and Nutrition Security Commission, the selection process was left in the hands of the Agriculture coordinators from the various districts. He says that the short notice of the program may have led to farmers from the Belize District being left out.
Emilio Montero, Coordinator, National Food and Nutrition Security Commission: “By the time we were getting lists Orange Walk was the district that sent the most, 30, so I told her you know what Tuesday we will go to Orange Walk. Then the next list Cayo like 20 I told him Wednesday we can go to Cayo and then Thursday down South. Meanwhile the districts coordinators were informing us about how much recruitments they would have. The Belize district again I think because of the short notice please district said we couldn’t find anyone.”
Participants were selected based on two different criteria which include being 18 years or older and being fluent in both reading and writing Spanish. Oscar Pollard says he has been farming for over thirty years and had all the requirements, so he can’t understand why he wasn’t even informed about the program.
Oscar Pollard, Farmer of Rural Belize: I’m a registered farmer and I’ve been doing this as I said for a livelihood and they know that about me. My family is not situated in an area that is isolated it’s 10 feet away from the edge of the road and there’s good access. We are now living in an age where we need to grow more green rather than using harmful pesticides and herbicides and so forth and I know that a training like this would enhance and educate you that you can do things and use things in your community that you can give good assistance to that go green that we have a better and healthier climate and at the same time acquiring knowledge we can hand it down too young farmers that are coming up.”
Sarah Chub’s family has been farming for generations. She is one of the few female farmers in the area. She says that she too believes she fits the criteria and is heartbroken that she wasn’t considered for the program.
Sarah Chub, Farmer of Rural Belize: “Every dollar that I make I invest iti n my farm. I have a nice farm. The minister knows it he has visited me and knows it but I had no idea what happened about this. We didn’t have any information absolutely no information I think from maybe call it the Old Northern highway I don’t know if anybody from Maskall heard about this I think that’s why I don’t have no idea what’s happening.”
Jose Miranda is also disappointed about not being informed. He and his eldest son are both farmers of Rural Belize. He says that the Minister has made great strides in the sector and called on him to look into the matter.
Jose Miranda, Farmer of Rural Belize: “In Maskall you have so many farmers. You have Lucky Strike you have Rockstone Pond all the way on the road you have farmers but what happened to them people? The end product doesn’t value or something like that? Something is wrong there so we need to see better ministry agriculture to visit these farms to see what is going on because sometimes they just pass through.”
Fortunately for these farmers, Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai says that his hope is to see farmers from rural Belize be included in the next group that will head to Columbia for the training program. Reporting for Love News I am Vejea Alvarez.