Ministry of Agriculture to take over Agro-Processing Project Print E-mail
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Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:00

Fernando Yeh and Henry Fan.   Soy Sauce TeamAn agro-processing field day was held on September 6, in the multipurpose building at the National Agriculture and Trade Show Grounds in Belmopan. The rare event was held to coincide with the almost festive occasions of Belmopan’s open market day and saw the participation of students from the Institutes for Technical & Vocational Education & Training (ITVET)’ from the Cayo and Orange Walk Districts. The event was organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture as well as the Republic of China Taiwan, ROC, Technical Mission under the theme, ‘Empowering women and youth for income generation’.

In his opening remarks last Friday, Fernando Yeh, Head of the ROC Taiwan Mission, reviewed the experiences of Taiwan and its development assistance programs around the world. Today the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund, (ICDF) has 32 missions in some 28 countries. Yeh described that during the 1950s' and after heavy bombardment in the Second World War, Taiwan was almost totally destroyed. Thereafter, the country became a recipient of aid from the United States of America, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Taiwan then moved on to use such aids not only to re-build the country’s infrastructure but to invest in human capital.

“With these foreign aid and utilizing human resources with that foreign aid, Taiwan had a chance to develop its economy from an agriculture society to a labor intensive, capital intensive and technology intensive industries… Our per capita income has grown from less than 200 USD in the 1950s' to over 20,000 USD today, said Fernando Yeh.

As a result, Taiwan is now not only pursuing its own development but has also committed itself to helping Belize in many areas of capacity building and technical assistance. ROC Taiwan’s Agro-processing Project, which began in Belize in 1999, is just one of the many programs that have been launched over the years.

Carson Huan, food specialist from the ROC Taiwan Technical Mission was also present to review some of the achievements. Huan said that over 800,000 packs were produced under the school snack program for primary school students and 500 tons of fruit were processed. In addition some 25 women groups from around the country were organized by the ROC Taiwan team (in partnership with others) and trained in the production of a range of produce for income generation.

Henry Fan, Councilor to the ROC Embassy spoke--to the applause from the audience--to announce that the driver in training will now change seats to take full control of the steering wheel.
“I think this food agro processing has been a highly successful one and to the end of this year this project would be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture…I believe that with those cooperation during those years enough experience and knowledge has been accumulated and I think in the good hands of Belizean specialists,” he said.

“I would also extend [thanks] on behalf of our embassy and my Government, to the Government of Belize, in particular the Ministry of Agriculture for your full support and for your assistance to make this project successful…the Republic of China attach much importance to help our allies to develop their economies and our many approach is to provide technical support and to share with our experiences and expertise,” he also said.

Representing the Ministry of Agriculture last Friday at the Agro Processing event was Gareth Murillo, Belize’s Registrar of Cooperatives. Murillo highlighted the roles of the Cooperative Department in championing organizational development, the Belize Marketing and Distribution Cooperation in furnishing market strategies and sales and the Belize Agricultural Health Authority in establishing safety standards. Murillo agreed with Fernando Yeh that building people’s skills and capacities, in addition to giving them confidence to exercise their rights, will build entire communities.

On display at the various booths in the multipurpose building in Belmopan was the now famous ‘Wow’ Soy Sauce made by some fifty two women from both the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. ‘Wow’ can be used to marinate meats and has proved useful in salad dressings. ‘Wow’ is a product of training from the ROC Technical Mission working in partnership with the Government of Belize. Also on display were products such as potato powder, dehydrated mango, pineapple yoghurt and crystallized ginger; produced thanks to the Taiwan ICDF.

Team members of the ICDF Food Processing Project hope to address the problem of surplus agricultural goods in Belize by channeling that surplus to increase employment; especially by women in the rural areas. The presence of Dr. Cary Fraser, President of the University of Belize, at last Friday’s event in Belmopan was significant; given the relations that the Taiwan Technical Mission has had with the various Educational institutions in Belize to build capacity such as in modes of processing foods.