Where Belize’s Agricultural Sector has been considered to be of critical importance to National Development, especially food security, there has been a renewed interest on the implications that Climate Change will be having in the foreseeable future. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Environment and Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture IICA and the National Climate Change Office organized on Wednesday a National Agriculture Climate Change Forum at the George Price Centre in Belmopan. The focus of the forum was to move beyond a national adaptation strategy to address climate change and revisit the evidence and potential solutions with the overall objective of moving from the strategy to action and raising awareness among crops and livestock producers in Belize on the impacts of climate change and what can be done to build resiliency within the sector.
Diana Ruiz, Science Officer at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center CCCC based in Belmopan told the audience today that the temperatures in Belize will be increasing, there will be a decrease in rainfall and so will hurricanes as surface temperatures increase. As a result there will be implications for the health sector in terms of incidences of vector borne diseases. Diana Ruiz also informed that as a result of climate change, predictions on low rainfall will impact on 2sanitation, and sea level rise will lead to salt intrusion in San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
As a result of Climate Change there are now a number of mitigation measures that the Ministry of Agriculture is now encouraging. According to Belarmino Esquivel, Director of Extension within the Ministry of Agriculture, beans and corn that are more tolerant to increased temperatures are now being brought into the crop areas. In the North of Belize, some 80 acres are now under irrigation said the expert from the Ministry of Agriculture. He also called for improved coordination and networking at the national and international level to counter the effects of Climate Change.
Speaking today on climate change trends in Central America and its implications for the Agriculture Sector, Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim, Manager of Innovation for Productivity and Competitiveness Program at IICA, who on March the first of this year will assume the leadership of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center CATIE in Costa Rica, told the audience that El Nino has already triggered losses in the agricultural sector and there will be a more severe El Nino next year. He said that overall agricultural productivity will be affected with pests and diseases for bananas and soy beans.
In one of the activities today, which will be continued on Thursday, a panel of agricultural users in bananas, citrus, grains and others were assembled, who all confirmed that climate change was already underway. Franklin Magloire, from the Development Finance Corporation spoke about the adaptive measures that the financial institution has already undertaken to the drought in the North and flooding in the South where loan beneficiaries were taken into special consideration.
Prior to the forum relied today on a document that has been produced with the support of EU-GCCA Project and the CCCCC, entitled “A National Adaptation Strategy to Address Climate Change in the Agriculture Sector in Belize.”
Previous to the forum and in a letter to stakeholders, Jose Alpuche, Chief Executive Officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Environment and Sustainable Development writes that the development of this strategy is a first significant step towards Belize’s response to addressing the issues of climate variability and climate change and the agricultural sector. Along with Dr. Dowlat Budhram Country Representative from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Jose Alpuche also expressed that in order to capitalize on this important effort and ensure that the strategy is implemented and is “alive”, relevant and useful to Belize, several important actions are necessary. “It is critical that stakeholders are sensitized on the findings and recommendations suggested in the strategy and to discuss the way forward. It is also necessary that stakeholders identify, prioritize and implement the most appropriate recommendations (adaptation measures) in the immediate and medium term,” he wrote.
Stakeholders in the agricultural sector now have a road map and there was a call today in Belmopan for more action to adjust for Climate Change. Experts called on today for agricultural diversification to occur now.