Posts Tagged organic farming

FFI’s: Focus On The Ceiba Tree

Article extracted from FFI

The ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra) is one of the largest trees in Belize’s Golden Stream Watershed ecosystem. Though not listed on the IUCN Red List, it is a vital component of the ecosystem and has an iconic status in the region’s communities.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with the grassroots organisation Ya’axché Conservation Trust to protect the ceiba’s forest habitat by working with local people. The habitat is home to jaguar, tapir and many other threatened species.

Learn more about our work to save the ceiba tree’s habitat.

Ceiba tree quick facts

  • Grows to 60-70 m (200-230 ft)
  • Has a straight, largely branchless trunk that culminates in a huge, spreading canopy, and buttress roots that can be taller than a grown person
  • Its deep roots mean it’s often one of the few trees left standing after a hurricane.
  • Plays an important ecological role, supplying shade, nectar, fruit and many other necessities for wildlife
  • In traditional Mayan culture, the ceiba tree represents the link between the underworld and the heavens because it’s so tall
  • The ceiba tree’s branches were believed by Mayans to act as a seat from which the gods watched the people walking below

 IYB Issue: Cultural connections

  • The ceiba tree’s strong cultural ties to Mayan culture has proven invaluable for FFI’s partner Ya’axché Conservation Trust. The communities in and around the Golden Stream Watershed are mostly Mayan. In choosing the ceiba tree for its name and logo (Ya’axché means ceiba tree in the Mopan Mayan language), Ya’axché is highlighting its focus on locally-driven solutions to conservation problems.  
  • Identifying the local cultural value of species can help garner community support for wider habitat protection. Humans are not separate from nature. The more we identify ways to strengthen the link between conservation and society, the more we have a chance of saving the planet’s biodiversity.

“The Ceiba tree stands tall and strong just like Ya’axché which together with FFI is proactively protecting more than 300,000 acres of the Maya Golden Landscape habitat that links the Maya Mountains to the Belize Barrier Reef.”
Lisel Alamilla, Ya’axché Conservation Trust

How You Can Help

Eat more chocolate! Well.. eat more Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate to be exact. A significant percentage of chocolate beans that go into it come from farmers that FFI and Ya’axché have supported around the Golden Stream Watershed area. 

Growing cacao under the rainforest canopy is much better for the forest and earns them more income than their previous slash-and-burn subsistence farming.


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OAS sponsors tourism, urban employment and conservation projects

The following article is an extract from:
News Media: News5
Author: Isani Cayetano
Date: May 19, 2010


Projects being undertaken by three local organizations to enhance the productivity of the tourism sector; provide employment for at risk youths; and promote conservation through sustainable farming practices have received the green light for funding by the Organization of American States.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Three agreements were signed this afternoon by representatives from BTB, N.C.F.C. and Ya’axche Conservation Trust.  According to Laura Esquivel-Frampton the monies that have been earmarked for tourism training and certification will be used to complete the project which is in its third year.

Laura Esquivel-Frampton, Director of Product Development, BTB

laura esquivel frampton“Primarily for the last couple years we’ve really been focusing on the certification of our local chefs program and that is heavily subsidized, mainly funded by this same OAS project.  Right now we have twelve participants in the program and they will finish a level two certification by the end of this year.  So by the end of this year we shall see for the first time local chefs being trained locally in Belize and certified so they will have that paper to back up all their qualifications that we know they already have.”

The total pledge of capital which is provided through OAS’ Special Multi-Lateral Fund (FEMCIDI) is five hundred, forty-nine thousand, two hundred and thirty-four dollars.  The money is being divided between the three entities and the National Committee for Families and Children will use its share to assist disadvantaged communities.

Pearl Stuart, Executive Director, NCFC

pearl stuart“We’re looking at disadvantaged women and at risk youth.  Well I’m particularly interested of course in the at risk youth and of course women being mothers to children that’s also of great interest to us.  But the disadvantaged women we’re looking at Samuel Haynes, we’re looking at the Women’s Department in doing high-end garments and that’s where we’ll tie to or link with tourism.”

Equally funded is an initiative by Ya’axche Conservation Trust to assist in poverty alleviation among indigenous communities in the Toledo District.

Lisel Alamilla, Executive Director, Ya’axchѐ

lisel alamilla

“One of our goals is having sustainable communities. So we have done organic farming, promoted organic farming in Medina Bank.  We’re now starting in Golden Stream and we’re really going to be moving more toward integrated farming.  We’ve also done projects along with the OAS in agro-forestry and one main component of this two is the capacity building which is something that is important because sometimes it’s best when you take someone out to show them what other people are doing to motivate them, to show them that there are possibilities out there.”

The projects are being funded over a fourteen month cycle between 2010-2011.  In the case of long term projects the agencies are expected to submit proposals annually to receive the necessary subsidies.  Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano

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Organic Vegetables

Medina Bank Organic Vegetable Farm

Medina Bank Organic Vegetable Farm

In this picture we see one of the newest projects Ya’axche has undertaken:  Organic Farming.

As part of our efforts in community outreach and livelihood development we have partnered with the local Medina Bank village to create this three-quarter acre community plot.  There’s another quarter acre just off to the left of this frame.  The aim is to develop local knowledge regarding organic farming.  As local demand for organic products slowly grows, these farmers will be local leaders in the field.  Additionally, by using only organic fertilizers and pest control systems, we ensure the ongoing quality of the land and nearby river (which is about 100 meters to the right of this picture).

So what are you seeing in this picture?  First, the plot is located just off the Southern Highway, providing easy access and visibility.  (We plan to install a large roadside sign in the next few weeks.)  Whereas traditional farming techniques move crops to different plots each year using slash-and-burn agriculture, this farm will permanently remain in this area, minimizing impacts on other stretches of nearby forest.  Crops will be rotated with legume species to maintain soil quality, and a compost operation is being developed in an area just to the back right part of the field.

You’ll also see sporadic trees in the middle of the plot.  Those are a variety of species including cohune palm, avocado, bri bri and cacao and hardwood species.  Our farming techniques can be done without completely clearing the land of plants, and the diversity adds to the organic product list produced by this farm.  The main crops there are cabbage, tomato and sweet peppers, but we also have zucchini, peanuts, cucumbers, beans, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, cassava, plantain, callaloo and watermelons.  Overall, we are cultivating nearly 20 species of edible plants of one kind or another on this one acre.

In the background you see one of the foothills to the Maya Mountains.  It’s quite bare at the moment due to the high level of fire activity in recent years.  Hurricane Iris hit the area in 2001 destroying large tracts of forest.  That fallen timber (and the entire top of that hill) burned in 2003 after a slash-and-burn operation went wrong.  After that the hill was used for extensive farming for five years until another fire burned agricultural and milpa waste last summer.  Because of these fires and the increased erosion on the bare land, it will be some time before trees once again cover that hilltop — if ever at all.

We also recently wrote about the new drip irrigation system installed on this plot, which will further help its productivity and status as an innovative pilot program in the region.

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Drip Irrigation System Installed in the Medina Bank Organic Farm

Drip irrigation filter and distribution system

Drip irrigation filter and distribution system

As part of its Community Outreach and Livelihood efforts, Ya’axché has installed a drip irrigation system in Medina Bank Village. The system will help the fresh organic seedlings planted just a month ago thrive throughout the upcoming dry season, which lasts through the Belizean spring and early summer. Before the irrigation system was set up, farmers spent large parts of their days transporting water from nearby rivers and streams to their garden plots. They no longer have to do that.

The system installation and associated training was provided by the Agriculture Department in the village of Central Farm in the Cayo District, and was coordinated by our office with the investment capital provided by the farmers themselves. On a day in early March, the team put in a long day setting up the system. They placed the pump in the river, connected about a hundred meters of PVC piping, and installed filtration and distribution systems that culminate in drip emitters at the base of every plant. At full operation, each plant receives approximately on liter of fresh, clean water per hour. Once the pump started working that evening, everyone was very excited!

Installing the pump in the river

Installing the pump in the river

This system maximizes efficient water use while providing each plant the amount of water it needs. Efficient water distribution increases each crop yield in this new organic community farm. With proper maintenance the system should run for about three to five years, with project profitability achieved after only two. Water efficiency, organic produce and increased profitability, another win-win-win!

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Organic Farming Training

twbz-ag-medium2Yesterday a small contingent of farmers from our local Mayan communities within the Golden Stream Watershed took a field trip with Ya’axche to the Cayo District.  There, Mr. Thomas Tillett, Country Officer for Organic Production at the Ministry of Agriculture served as the guide to two demonstration plot areas at the Central Farm created and maintained by both Taiwanese nationals and Belizeans.  These plots relied on agro-chemicals, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

ag-min-mediumNext, to demonstrate a chemical-free and thus healthier alternative to farming, the group visited the organic farm near Santa Familia.  There the farmers saw evidence of a highly successful organic farm. The two Tun brothers that owned it used natural pesticides made from Castor oil and marigold, and they produced fertilizers by converting composted organic materials into vermicompost with the help of earthworms.

Ultimately great benefits were shown for the results of organic farming.  Sponsorship for the trip came by way of our project with the Organization of American States (OAS) who we are working with to enrich livelihoods through integrated landscape management techniques in the communities that surround our protected areas.  As we move forward, Ya’axche will continue to work with local communities to encourage productive organic agriculture practice.

(Significant story contribution from Ginny Fuhs)


Organic Vegetables

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