BELTRAIDE’s first cohort of Female Entrepreneurs Print E-mail
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Friday, 12 July 2019 00:00

Thirteen women who were a part of the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service’s (BELTRAIDE’s) Female Entrepreneurship Program (FEP) have graduated. The graduation ceremony was held on Thursday, July 4, 2019 at the Belize Best Western Biltmore Plaza. The program was held in support from Regional Center of Promotion for MSME (CENTROMYPE) and had the goal of improving and strengthening the women’s leadership skills, economic empowerment, business development, and other social skills. Ada Mendez, Coordinator of FEP and representative from CENTROMYPE, said that she was pleased to be a part of the graduation ceremony to witness the achievements of the women. She also encouraged BELTRAIDE and like organizations to continue in their feats toward making the program more sustainable.

All thirteen hard-working women have been a part of the program since its inception in March of this year. During the course of the program, which officially ended on June 28, they learned a host of skills and were also actively involved in meetings, workshops, networking events, and had mentorship sessions with women already in established businesses. Monique Usher, Acting Manager at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Belize, says that the women also learned conflict resolution, financial management, and other areas they felt were essential to the operation of a business. Since being enrolled in the program, Usher says that the women have seen an increase in their sales and they have been able to better identify their market. Each of the thirteen graduates are part of the SBDC and as a result, they will continue to receive business support from the center.

Besides empowering these women in their businesses, the program also saw empowerment of self. Several of the women delivered heartfelt testimonies at the graduation ceremony which can attest to the bond and development these women each experienced during their time in the program. One such woman was Janine Montenegro who runs the Belize Virtual Center in Orange Walk along with her husband. She started by quoting Bobbi Brown, a female entrepreneur herself. Brown says to “be the entrepreneur of your life”, which Montenegro says she took to mean having control and ownership over your own personal life and future. Montenegro says that being in the FEP, she has come so much closer to that reality and has learned to establish that leadership position in her personal life too. Besides learning a host of skills including a legal framework for gender equality, effective communication, and how to correctly present a business pitch, she has also networked with women who are as determined and goal oriented as her.

Montenegro started her business in November of 2013 and since then, has seen an increase in staff as well as both local and international clientele. Her business offers virtual staffing solutions and she classifies it as a business process outsourcing company. Montenegro says that being a part of FEP did become overwhelming at times but it did encourage her to want more for her business.

The women each received certificates and one woman, Keisha Bech, received a special award for her outstanding business model pitch. These certificates were presented by Hon. Tracy Taegar-Panton, Honorable Minister of State (Investment, Trade and Commerce) Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade, and Commerce.

The Female Entrepreneurship Program has been in the works for some time now, from about November 2018, with the transfer of the Methodology to BELTRAIDE and other BSOs such as the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Women’s Department, and the Belize City Council. While this group of thirteen has been the program’s first cohort of graduates, there are intentions of providing for subsequent groups.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 July 2019 11:40
Schools get into digital era with DigiLearn Print E-mail
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Friday, 12 July 2019 00:00

Digi and the Ministry of Education (MOE) have announced the official rollout of DigiLearn - a Digital Learning platform for students and teachers. The rollout featured a press conference on Thursday, July 4, 2019 where personnel from Digi, MOE, and other key stakeholders spoke about this revolutionary method of learning. For the project’s initial phase, a pilot was carried out in several schools whose teachers, students, and principals have expressed their appreciation for the technology.

Rochus Schreiber, Chief Executive Officer of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), parent company of Digi, expressed how grateful he and his team were to receive the ministry’s support. He said that the Ministry of Education has so far been instrumental in overcoming challenges which arose from the project, especially challenges relating to Microsoft licenses. Also from Digi, Janine Salazar, the company’s Deputy Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, said that preparations for DigiLearn has been in the works for almost two years and saw the collaboration of the Belize Catholic Schools and Principals associations. The idea is to see a digital transformation in schools to foster creativity and boost retention.

Nine schools have already been included in the project’s pilot phase and on June 19, 2019, a letter of intent was signed between the Ministry and Digi for it to be accessible to over 3,000 students by September 2019. Thereafter, the plan is to carry out DigiLearn nationwide.

Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Carol Babb, expressed the ministry’s willingness and excitement to be a part of this transformative process. People of this day and age are becoming more and more apt with the use of technology and it is only logical to foster learning through a digital means. So far, children who were a part of the pilot project have shown an increased level of interest and engagement and on the end of the teachers, they can better cover content.

DigiLearn sees the use of individual laptops, learning programs, technical support, and 500MB of internet for the school.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 July 2019 11:41
BTIA holds Bi-Annual Meeting in Belmopan Print E-mail
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Friday, 12 July 2019 00:00

The Tourism sector in Belize currently faces some pressing challenges, but by working together they are preparing to face them with much determination. The Belize Tourism Industry Association BTIA held its bi-annual general meeting at the George Price Center in Belmopan last Thursday where some of these difficulties were discussed.

In her address President Ms. Melanie Paz highlighted two issues now affecting the industry. “As stakeholders in the tourism industry, we are always faced with major issues affecting us, two of these issues that are on the top of the BTIA list are security and safety and sargassum, BTIA has and will continue to address these national issues.”

These two major concerns would be expanded upon in the meeting by Mr. John Burgos, the Executive Director of the BTIA in his Mid-Year in Review.

A sargassum task force was set up by the BTIA in 2015. Then in 2018 the BTIA saw the urgency in being more proactive and began to organize national strategies to alleviate the sargassum influx. BTIA is now awaiting a ‘white paper’ from Government and the Belize Tourism Board with some recommendations on the extension for individual properties, who want to import equipment and material to deal with the sargassum.

On the issue of crime, Mr. John Burgos reported, “…we have been meeting and lobbying with the Commissioner of Police with the Ministers, but now we are reaching out to the Prime Minister to the Minister of National Security, all the issues with regards to crime and drugs and corruption, so we also have to have a national approach.”

Burgos also noted that the San Pedro Chapter has been very supportive of the Police Department over the last couple of weeks by providing and supporting it in any way possible. BTIA has been providing  them with “… a lot of resources, we have been providing accommodations, transportation a lot of meals,  we will continue with that …at the beginning of October we had agreed that we will provide a permanent support for accommodations for the team that will be permanently based in San Pedro to reduce the crime in San Pedro.”

Burgos also congratulated the Commissioner of Police Chester Williams “…for his good leadership that he has shown at this point.”

While sargassum and crime has been on the front burner for the BTIA, other issues like the need for a ban of gill nets was also raised by Mr. Burgos. He commented on the indiscriminate nature of gill nets, with its potential to endangering our fish stock. Fly fishing is valuable to tourism, he also reminded, and with the protection of our tarpon and bone fish, that also brings in some much needed income into the Country.

Guest speaker for last week’s BTIA meeting was Mr. Anthony Hunt, an airline and tourism consultant, whose day job is target marketing at Tropic Air and who is also the Chairman of the Aviation Development Committee for Belize. Hunt described the airline industry as a “...grow or die industry.” He urged BTIA members to keep their doors open to tourists in both September and October and to begin targeting the Caribbean and “…the less risk adverse Latin American travelers.”

Hunt says an attempt has been made in getting European carriers to Belize. But that will require a restaurant open for 24 hours a day and a flight kitchen.

Hunt informed that it takes 260,000 U.S for a flight to Belize or $13,000 US an hour. Airlines do not exist out of charity as they need to pay their staff and raise money for their shareholders. According to Hunt, despite these costs,  airlines need more hotel rooms and lower rates-- given that Belize is competing with the likes of Aruba and Costa Rica. There is also a need for faster passenger processing at the immigration hall and to tax our “…trash out of existence.” Once the tourists are on Belizean soil,  Hunt admits that Belize is extremely efficient in distributing passengers.

We will now await the BTIA as it undertakes another venture, it’s Second Annual Belize Birding Festival, which is scheduled for October 19th and the 20th of this year. BTIA has already secured three main guest speakers for this exciting event.

The BTIA has also signed a partnership agreement with a hospitality institute in Quintana Roo. Their training, to be conducted in English, will begin in August of this year.

IICA Belize holds accountability seminar Print E-mail
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Friday, 12 July 2019 00:00

The Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture recently held an accountability seminar with its main stakeholders within the conference room at the Ministry of Agriculture at the National Agriculture and Trade Show Grounds in Belmopan.  Discussed at this session were the main accomplishments for 2018.

Among those milestones was the finalization in May of this year of a two million euro funding for a banana project in the banana belt, which began in December of 2017 and was implemented throughout 2018. This project provided input for infrastructure work in the banana industry. Under the banana project, the micro propagation laboratory in Central Farm was enhanced to provide some 4000 meristems, with a quality to compare to those that had previously been imported.

IICA was also able to assist its main partner the Ministry of Agriculture with its Belize Agriculture Information Management System, in which two villages were identified and geo referenced.

IICA also assisted the bee keeping industry in formulating a five year strategy. This comes as good news given that bees are important for the food sector as they are our main pollinators.

At the accountability seminar, the Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture highlighted the work that IICA has been doing with the Department. Hon. Godwin Hulse urged that all stakeholders collaborate more closely in order for Belizeans to be provided with quality food.

According to a recent report from IICA headquarters in Costa Rica, food security in the Region has become an important topic of discussion at various international fora. Indeed, food security issues have taken central stage with the situation in Venezuela.

In the Latin American and Caribbean regions, the number of undernourished people have increased for the third consecutive year, reaching 39.3 million people (6.1% of the population), due primarily to the grave situation in Venezuela.

In some countries of the region, undernourishment affects less than 5% of the population, while in other countries like Bolivia, Guatemala and Nicaragua, more than 15% of people are undernourished. In Haiti, 45% of the population is exposed to food insecurity; in Venezuela, on the other hand, food insecurity affects 80% of the population.

This data forms part of a detailed report on the status of and outlook for food security in the hemisphere, presented by Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), during the Forty-ninth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), held in Medellín, Colombia. “We bring this message here today because the General Assembly of the OAS should serve as the forum for periodic discussions on matters related to food and nutrition security in the region. Efforts must be undertaken to ensure that these topics are addressed by the Inter-American System; in this regard, IICA is the ideal institution to raise these issues on a regular basis,” remarked Otero.

“Timely information, along with clear indicators, will allow for making recommendations on and increasing awareness of areas in which it is necessary to adopt corrective measures in the countries,” added the Director General of IICA.

Otero highlighted the fact that working together with the member countries of the Inter-American System to promote food and nutrition security in the hemisphere is part of IICA’s mission. He also noted that Latin America and the Caribbean must take on pending tasks in order to guarantee food and nutrition security for their inhabitants.

One of those tasks, explained Otero, is the need for market transparency and greater investment in research and development in order to generate adequate frameworks that would lead to increased production, better macroeconomic indicators, and higher income for society as a whole. In the Latin American and Caribbean regions, the main risks associated with food insecurity in LAC are concentrated in the Central American Dry Corridor, Eastern Caribbean countries, Haiti and Venezuela; these areas also face the greatest limitations in increasing agricultural productivity.

The most severe case is that of Venezuela, where the daily calorie intake per person fell from 2,866 in 2011 to 1,416 in 2018, which is considerably below the recommended intake of 2,300 calories per day.

This situation is exacerbated by a limited supply of drinking water, as well as instability in the electrical supply and in access to domestic gas, all of which restrict proper food preparation. “The grave situation in Venezuela today stands in contrast to its agricultural and food potential, reflected in the availability of arable land for agriculture, livestock and forestry, as well as its water supply, biodiversity, and important network of producers’ organizations,” stated Otero.

In this regard, he highlighted IICA’s technical capacity to reconstruct Venezuela’s institutions and agroindustrial infrastructure, as well as its readiness to join forces with those countries that are committed to assist in this task.

IICA is the specialized agency for agriculture in the Inter-American system, with a mission to encourage, promote and support Belize and its 33 other Member States in their efforts to achieve agricultural development and rural well-being through international technical cooperation of excellence.

MOU signed between NICH and BAVIA Print E-mail
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Friday, 12 July 2019 00:00

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) and the Belize Audio Visual Industry Association (BAVIA). We now live in a digital age, and a large part of that includes viewing videos on almost all social media platforms. The BAVIA is using the population’s use of technology to encourage Belizean creators to produce more content, and to get paid for it. It is to that end that the MOU was signed—to promote a viable and sustainable film industry in Belize.

Since 2008, NICH and BAVIA have been working informally to foster development in the audio visual industry. The signing of the MOU comes over a decade after an economic partnership agreement on the cultural sector was signed by CARIFORUM and the European Union.

Tareek Young, President, BAVIA, says that the signing of the MOU is simply a continuation of the support that the association has already been receiving from NICH. “NICH has been in our corner since I’ve taken over as the president of the association and the dialogue has been very important in really understanding what is possible in leading this industry forward. The work hasn’t been easy; this path hasn’t been easy. It’s been long overdue, but this is a giant leap forward.” He says that while the signing of the MOU does not automatically mean that there are no more problems, it does signify a commitment on either ends. “I am of the firm belief that words mean nothing until you put the action behind it. And we have impressed upon NICH as an organization our willingness to work, our willingness to continue to press forward to give a realistic sustainable vision of what a Belizean film industry, audio visual industry can look like.”


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