Accountability Seminar held in Belmopan Print E-mail
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Thursday, 03 April 2014 00:00

Both the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture IICA and the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute CARDI held an accountability seminar on Wednesday of this week at the George Price Center for Peace and Development in Belmopan. It was an opportunity for both partners in development to review their programs of activities since 2013 and meet with a large list of stakeholders, seeking to guarantee food security for Belize.   Representing IICA Belize and doing so since October 2012, was Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim. While CARDI, was represented by Dr. Anil K. Sinha, an agronomist who has been working in Belize since January of 1983.

 IICA operates in 34 Countries around the World providing assistance in such areas as technical cooperation for agriculture and food safety. Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim told the attendants today that the accountability seminar was being held in partnership with CARDI to show the “…challenges, opportunities and partnerships; to provide farmers with solutions to be more productive.”

 Such examples of partnerships are like the one IICA Belize has had with the Ya’ axhe Conservation Trust to improve crop yields in the Toledo District. Bartolo Teul from Ya’axhe described the cropping technique now in use by his group in which legumes are planted on slopes to add Nitrogen to the soil and at the same time decrease the incidences of landslides. Other areas of cooperation that IICA now has in Belize is the assistance given to farmers to increase their corn production. Yvette Alonzo, Agriculture Economist and Policy Analyst at IICA described how farmers in Jalacte and San Vicente in the Toledo District now use post harvest technologies. She added that farmers in those two villages are now using ‘shellers’ capable of producing some 440 pounds of corn per hour.

 Meanwhile; CARDI is also assisting farmers in coming up with the best crop varieties for use in the fields. CARDI now operates in 8 Caribbean countries and is this year celebrating its 40th Anniversary. Anil Sinha says that CARDI is trying to improve lives through agricultural research and development. The Caribbean based organization is now seeking to import two varieties of cassava from St. Vincent and the Grenadines that were deemed to be suitable for Belize, CM-3306-4 and CM 5306-8. Belize is among the three Countries in the Caribbean, which has been selected for a Project under CARDI to increase cassava production by 15%. While Cassava is being produced mostly by farmers in the Stann Creek District, the production is rudimentary and with little inputs. Anil Sihna says that the Nigerian Community is also now demanding more cassava flour.

 CARDI continues to hold 85 acres of land, planting two crops per year in Central Farm but this year had to face the daunting task of planting in January, just after an active rainy season and just before a dry period—doing so for the first time in 31 years. Not to be hindered, CARDI has 48 varieties of germplasm for beans. Among the small red beans CARDI now has 10 varieties.  In his presentation, Anil Sinha said that CARDI is now maintaining the ‘Red Jalacte’ from these red types, which has been identified as a suitable for Belize. 

CARDI has also done research on corn in Belize. 

“Among corn, hybrid varieties gave some improvement, ‘mb6’gave a high yield, among the white corn we have two varieties grown for seed production and preferred by some farmers,” said Anil Sinha.

CARDI Belize has also participated recently in dialogues regarding biodiversity, climate change and bio-safety issues. CARDI is also now a member of the Pesticide Control Board. But CARDI’s crowning achievement has been the identification of seeds that are adaptable to climate change and has a regional stock of seeds to draw from.  

“…to determine the best varieties through validated plots, with result seed varieties [with] resilience to phenomenon of heat and drought conditions,” adds Anil Sinha.

 IICA and CARDI are now working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture MNRE and other stakeholders in preparing an Agriculture Food Policy and Strategy; to improve productivity, innovation and technology and strengthen the information system in the Ministry. Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim told the Guardian this evening that the Policy will be collaborative and once it is in place, the next step would be to have a business plan for the MNRE.