Posted: Monday, January 14, 2019. 10:38 am CST.
By BBN Staff: A new product made from Belizean-grown turmeric, a ginger-like root, has started hitting grocery store shelves not just in Belize, but also in Canada and very soon to the rest of the Caribbean, giving new opportunities to farmers and agro-processors in the Toledo district. Over 350 turmeric growers have registered with an agricultural social enterprise, Naledo Belize Ltd., to supply whole root turmeric for processing into ‘Truly Turmeric’ paste.
According to Spore Magazine, an international journal on agricultural developments around the globe, the farmers who have registered receive training from the company on how to re-plant small rhizomes (the underground plant stems), reduce contamination by herbicides/pesticides, clean roots efficiently and harvest the main part of the root. The crop is grown wild and under cultivation in forests or amongst other crops, and this biodiverse production model makes it sustainable and supports regenerative agriculture.
Turmeric yields over 4,500 kg per 0.5 ha and has a short growth cycle of 9 months, but was previously only produced in Belize in small amounts for hand-processing into powder for local consumption. Farmers registered with Naledo are now producing over 9,000 kg per month.
In 2014, while volunteering in Belize, Umeeda Switlo, CEO of Naledo, discovered that the size of Belize turmeric, Curcuma longa, was larger than other species. After testing it for pathogens and heavy metals, and finding none, she began processing turmeric paste from her kitchen in Canada. Switlo also discovered various nutritional benefits of the Belizean turmeric, for instance, while most turmeric has 2% curcuminoids, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound valued for its health benefits, Switlo discovered that Belize turmeric has 7.6%.
Young people in Toledo are also accessing new employment opportunities through Naledo’s agro-processing factory in Punta Gorda, the capital of the district. Here, all value-added activities take place, from bottling to labeling, and the factory employs 10 people between the ages of 18 and 31 years, including several managers, paying at least double the Belize minimum wage. Naledo employees also receive training in business, bookkeeping, food safety and entrepreneurship.
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