Posts Tagged organic

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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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!

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BOPA Guidelines for Organic Crops

According to the Belize Organic Producers Association, a plan for organic crops must include the following:

  1. A detailed map of the enterprise, a description of the rotation plan and the production plan, a description of changes in the general condition of the soil, and ongoing monitoring of the soil condition
  2. A detailed description of the sources of seed, seedlings, including seed inoculants, germplasm, scions, rootstock and other propagules, production methods and related problems with production
  3. A description of the cultivation techniques and the types of machinery and equipment used; a profile of erosion risks and proposed corrective measures
  4. A description of the fertilization program, including origin and source  of manure, storage and handling techniques, quantity applied, application period and composting methods; a description of other production methods aimed at increasing organic matter, such as green manure crops and harvest residue management and a plan to prevent the leaching of breakdown products of liquid and solid manure
  5. A detailed listing of all production inputs and the justification for their use
  6. A description of the watershed on the enterprise and the measures to prevent exposure of contact with prohibited substances; a description of the sources and the quality of water used for irrigation
  7. A description of crop protection issues and management strategies; a description of progblems with past practices, if applicable
  8. A description of potential sources of exposure or contact with prohibited substances; concerns associated with neighboring areas and buffer zones; in cases where the enterprise is not fully converted to organic production, a description of the managment system to maintain orgaic integrity
  9. A description of the facility’s managemnt plan for the storage and handling of organic inventory, and the steps or procedures taken to prevent the commingling of organic and any non-organic stocks taht may be present

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