Organic Products in Belize

Protecting Fragile Organic Vegetables

Protecting Organic Vegetables

Ya’axche is involved in organic vegetable cultivation.  Through a grant provided by the Organization of American States (OAS) and in conjunction with our Community Outreach and Livelihoods program, we have sponsored the planting of about two acres of organic vegetables in the community of Medina Bank.  We have discussed that operation before, but in today’s What Do We See in This Picture we wanted to speak further about the state of organic products in Belize.

This is a picture of a greenhouse for organic vegetables in the Cayo district.  Sweet (bell) peppers on the left, tomatoes on the right.  The protective plastic covering does three things for the plants, and are therefore highly recommended for use on all local organic farms:

  1. Sun protection – UV radiation give plants greater susceptibility to certain diseases
  2. Pest control – insects destroy crops and raise incidences of disease
  3. Climate control – exposure and irrigation are much easier to control in an enclosed structure.  This is particularly useful for growing seedlings for transplanting

These structures (approx 20′ x 40′ in dimension) cost around BZ$3,000 (US$1,500) to construct and can hold a few hundred plants. Included in that cost is the installation of an irrigation system (which must be fed by a water main or stream).  It is also necessary to provide a small container with water mixed with bleach and white lime for rinsing hands and feet/boots prior to entering an organic growing area.  That reduces the incidences of contamination by non-organic substances.  All of this is required of organic operations here in Belize.

Historically, local farming has always been organic.  Traditional Mayan agriculture did not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides since none were available.  Early banana and sugar cane plantations were organic by default as well.  In the Mayan system, the health of crops was ensured through plot rotation, crop rotation and manual care.  Moving plots from one area to the next in subsequent years reduced the impact of pests on a crop.  Similarly, rotating beans into a cornfield after each harvest enriched the soil (beans are a legume) and kept weeds off the plot.  Lastly, much manual labor was needed to keep fields healthy and free of pests.  So when chemical fertilizers and pesticides came onto the scene, they gained wide acceptance on commercial as well as family farms.  Nowadays that’s starting to change as the market for organically-produced foods is growing.

Belize does not currently have a national standard for organic products.  It does, however, have two institutions that are filling some of the void until that standard is implemented. The first is the Punta Gorda-based Toledo Cacao Growers’ Association (TCGA),which supplies fair trade cacao for UK-based Green & Black’s organic chocolate.  Back in the early 90s these bodies established the first large-scale commercial organic enterprise in the region.

The second organic institution is the Belize Organic Producers Association (BOPA – website under construction) which has developed criteria for organic certification.  Barring unforeseen challenges, those criteria should be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture sometime in the early summer, providing Belize with its first national organic standard.  Within the year it should have field agents who will begin the process of certifying farms.

While that process – and in fact the focus of Belizean organic operations – is taking place in the Cayo and Belize districts north of us, we are very excited about the opportunity we have of furthering the organic movement and becoming a leader in Toledo-based organics!

Advertisements

5 Comments »

  1. _joey_ said

    This blog’s where its happenning. Keep up the good work.

  2. mrred said

    Love this blog I’ll be back when I have more time.

  3. Great work & site, I’ll link this up! Laura

  4. Peder said

    Thanks _joey_ and mrred, we really enjoy producing this blog. Come back anytime!

  5. Peder said

    Thanks Laura, appreciate the link love!

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: