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Agriculture in Belize

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Posted: Monday, July 20, 2020. 8:46 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

In photo: Christina Garcia, Paul Thomspon, Hon. Cordel Hyde, Steve Nembhard, Gustavo Requena & Hon. Oscar Requena

Photo credit: Ya’axche’

By Bill Lindo: For some time I have been writing articles trying to educate Belizeans that the reason why first the United States of America, and later Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and today’s China have been able to supply a high standard of living for their citizens was because every one of them followed a version of Capitalism that was known during the nineteen century as the American School/System of Political Economy. In Belize we knew it as George Price’s Mixed Economy. George Price and I were educated in the United States before 1971 so we were taught the American System/School.

The major concepts of the American School that distinguish that version of Capitalism from the British School are:

1. Exploiting nature rather than men. The big boys of Belize cry that they are Christians, but still they cheat, steal, and exploit their fellow humans.  Slavery was and still is the institutional organization of exploiting man by other men.  Belize as a British colony and now neo-colony has always exploited men rather than nature. This concept has been at the heart of the differences between Hamilton’s American system and the British system/empire, and the centre of the institution of slavery for over ten thousand years.

2. Tariff Protection of local agriculture and manufacturing because free trade have always benefit the strong at the expense of the weak. Trade protection of agriculture and manufacturing has been the means to providing a high standard of living to citizens. In fact, the Covid-19 crisis is showing that nearly every country on earth today is practicing protection of their local production to protect the workers of their respective countries, because of the massive dislocation of their economies. Globalization/free trade has failed.

3. High wages to workers, because as E. Peshine Smith, wrote: “In order to make labour-cheap, the labourer must be well-fed, well-clothed, well-lodged, well-instructed.” Over the last 150 years political-economists have known that the cheapest worker in money-terms is not necessarily the cheapest in economic terms. At the end of the day, money-wages is paid for knowledge, and knowledge is expensive because while the worker is learning, he has to be fed, clothed, and given shelter.

4. Money creation is a public utility and should be under the control of elected representatives of the people, not controlled by private individuals for private gain and control. For thousands of years the act of money creation was an act of the sovereign. It was only in the last 200 years or so that private individuals were given the authority to create new money. The power to create new money from the air is an omnipotent power to be given to individuals. It is tantamount to the power of life and death.

5. Technology and innovation always causes new methods to enter production and thus profits and wages don’t diminish but instead leads to higher productivity and thus higher wages to workers. Therefore the theory of Diminishing Returns is not valid to physical reality. A stupid theory has been taught by all the British economists from the Rev. Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Marshall, John Keynes, and the modern versions pushed in today’s schools that Capitalism has the seed of its own destruction within it. In fact, Keynes said that the best way to postpone this dreadful day is not to invest in productive activities such as building two railway lines from York to London, but instead better to build two pyramids – two tombs for the dead. Technology, the invention of something new, especially the application of scientific knowledge to develop new machinery and equipment –   always leads to higher productivity, thus increasing both profits and wages, leading to a harmony of interests – not class warfare.

6. A view of soil fertility and agricultural productivity as a product of capital investment – not nature. Science is the way to solve the problem of “mining the soil”.   This concept goes back to the opposition of the Americans to both Ricardo and Malthus. Those British economists preach that man when he first settles the soil goes first to the best soil, then later to the worst. The greatest economist, the American, Henry C. Carey in his many books and articles proved that the early settler did not settle first on the best soil, but instead on the inferior because he physically could not work the best soils. He didn’t have the machinery.

7. Public infrastructure as a means to lower costs in an industrial society by introducing new methods of production and communications, and the public support of research and development. Agriculture and manufacturing industries need a glue to hold them together. That glue is infrastructure. There is both soft and hard infrastructure. Soft is education and health. Both absolutely necessary in our society. Then there is the need for roads, bridges, canals, dams, buildings, and so on. Belize must stop importing materials for our infrastructure projects and start making them ourselves, such as cement and steel. In September last year, China opened the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge/tunnel. Most Western engineers said this modern wonder was an impossible task. After 7 years, and the issuance of 1,600 patents the impossible was done. The construction of the bridge led to the development of new types of steel, including stainless steel, new heavy duty cranes, new welding methods, and others. Those new methods will now be part of the Chinese economy which means their productivity will increase tremendously, leading to lower unit prices and higher wages to workers. This is how infrastructure causes a nation-state to create happiness for its citizens.

8. Government intervention in an economy. Government as the “brain” must put a bridle on corporate bodies, and must establish the pursuit of happiness as a natural right of citizens. In Belize this principle is enshrined in the PUP’s Constitution as a sacred duty of government to create full employment and completely end poverty. The propaganda we hear every day goes something like this. The private sector is the engine of growth. The government does nothing, just steal from the productive private sector that produces wealth. Belize got its political Independence on September 21st Before we were a colony of Great Britain so we had certain restrictions to follow. Therefore, for the last 38 years the Belize private sector could do whatever it wished. What manufacturing industries were created? How was the standard of living increased by the investment of the private sector in the local economy? How many new jobs were created by the private sector?

The truth is that Belize’s private sector has created no new jobs. They created no manufacturing industries. When Belize got political independence the rate of poverty was about 23%. By 1999 it climbed to about 33%; and in the year 2009 it was at 43%. And by 2016 it was at 57.8%. Today with Covid-19 it is estimated to be close to 65%. That is the legacy of the private sector. And in March of this year it was revealed that 5% of Belizeans owned some 75% of all the cash on deposits in the banks. Young people, the less-educated and people of colour in Belize don’t own stocks, bonds, or real estate. They sell their time by the hour. And the real hourly rate has scarcely changed since 1981. The rich get richer. The poor and middle classes get poorer. Expect more corruption, more dependence, more depression, more poverty, and more unfairness.  This is why George Cadle Price wrote that it is a Sacred duty of government to intervene in the economy because only government as the “brains” of economy can put a bridle on corporate bodies to create full employment and the eradication of poverty.

I went on a trip last week, July 9th & 10th to the Toledo District with the Hon. Cordel Hyde. The trip was organised by Ya’axché, a local NGO. We also met with the two area representatives for Toledo, Hon. Mike Espat and Hon. Oscar Requena.

Now let’s talk about agriculture in Belize in relation to (6.) above — A view of soil fertility and agricultural productivity as a product of capital investment – not nature.  Science is the way to solve the problem of “mining the soil”.

Currently there are two different mind-sets about agriculture. The dominant viewpoint is the farming carried out by the big boys – the large grain farmers, the large citrus farmers, Belize Sugar Industries, Santander, and a few American grain growers.  Today, the large farmers control all of Belize’s production of rice, sorghum, soybeans, most of the corn, all the chickens, most hogs, and more than half of the beef cattle are raised by them. But there is a problem.

Research has shown in Belize that for the years 2012 to 2017 pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use have increased but per acre yields have not kept pace.  So what’s going on?  The large farmers have been “mining the soil” – in obedience to the giant petro-chemical firms.

Part of the problem is philosophy – the schools and giant petrochemical firms look on agriculture as reductionist – the whole equals the sum of its parts and nothing more. The whole is entropic and linear. However, the real world is holistic – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and is non-linear and everything, including the Universe is non-entropic.  Remember this – no reductionist has or can discover anything in this World.  In December 2019 I wrote: “Until Belize’s farmers learn scientific agriculture, our agriculture sector will continue to slowly collapse and with it rural poverty will continue to increase, as the small independent farmers are turned into wage peonage.”

Well, I take back that last sentence. The trip to Toledo with Hon. Cordel Hyde was an eye opener. Ya’axché is doing wonders in the Toledo District. They are managers of some of the large forest reserves in Belize. The Bladen Reserve has at least 22 different species of bees. They are allowing local farmers to setup beehives in the forest reserves and teaching the local farmers how to use science to manage the bees so that the honey is organic. They established a Trio Farmers Cacao Growers Association to grow organic cacao in the forest reserve using scientific methods.

They also took us to a 35 acre farm in San Felpe village where Mr Cruz has a modern integrated farm.  Mr Cruz traveled to Cuba to learn about organic agriculture. Mr Cruz grows beans, corn and vegetables. He also has permanent fruit trees like avocado, cacao, mangoes, coconuts, breadfruit, and oranges. In addition, his farm has chickens, turkeys and pigs. He also created a bio-gas unit from the waste of the pigs. He thus makes his own “butane gas”.  He buys no chemical fertilizers nor pesticides for his many plants and crops. He gets nitrogen from cover crops he grows, and the waste from the trees and chicken makes very good compost to supply his plants’ needs of potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, and boron. Because he does not use dangerous chemical fertilizers like muriate of potash and gets nitrogen from the air and his other minerals from compost, he has a balanced soil with humus and lots of worms. His yields are high, without the need to “mine his soil”.

Growing crops on balanced soils with lots of worms and humus means the insects will stay away[1]. One of the major reasons for our unhealthy crops is the overuse of nitrogen leading to incomplete proteins.  A healthy plant, or a plant in metabolic balance, is either in hibernation (called repose) or it is growing very fast, depending on its supply of water, nutrients, and weather.  Regardless, the plant is in repose or growing vigorously, it is poor in amino-acids. Intensive protein synthesis uses up the amino-acids produced in the cells as fast as they appear.  Insects need soluble food to build their own proteins, including sugars, and mineral nutrients to build their complex proteins such as enzymes. But if the plant has used it all, then there is none for the insect and they die due to a lack of food.  The late Dr Phil Callahan in his ground breaking work on insects showed that insects use infrared frequency to locate sick plants (those with incomplete proteins) and then go do their job of “garbage collectors”.

Ya’axché has a secret weapon in their staff. One of the persons who teaches the local farmers how to be independent farmers, is Gustavo Requena a person trained in biochemistry. Mr Requena understands science and has himself been practicing scientific agriculture. Sometimes we call it biological agriculture, restoration agriculture, and other names. The practice of agriculture by the new farmers of Toledo is the future, especially now with the impacts of Covid-19. Ya’axché shows that scientific agriculture is sustainable. Already it is allowing small farmers to not only feed their family nutrient-dense healthy foods, but to sell the surplus enabling the farmers to send their children to University. Gustavo’s wife told us that they have not bought or used sugar for over three years. One of the sons has several bee hives and produces three different types of organic honey.

I will recommend to the leadership of the PUP that Oscar Requena be appointed the new Minister of Agriculture if the PUP wins the next general election. The Hon. Oscar Requena also has an integrated farm. His pigs are a beauty to behold. This is a man who knows what he is doing. This is the kind of leader Belize needs now to lead us out of the hell called Covid-19. The old-style of agriculture is death. The large-scale style of agriculture is not viable again Belize. Yes, it has fed the Belizean people, but at what cost? The over-use of nitrogen makes the products large and pretty, but it’s all empty, full of air and incomplete proteins, not fit for human consumption. Glyphosate is now banned in Mexico. The WHO says it’s a dangerous cancer causing agent. In Belize some farmers overuse it and they even joke that they can drink it like water. But don’t forget Belizeans, when Covid-19 struck in March of this year, the dairy farmers of Spanish Lookout dug holes and threw the fresh milk in the holes. When you buy from large farmers, you get poor, they get rich. It’s better to buy from our farmers of the South. They give you healthy, real food, and also buy from other Belizeans. Their elected representatives work for the small independent citizens of Belize.

Belize needs leaders who work for the common man and women, not those who serve the interests of the big fishes. Belizeans deserve high paying jobs and a healthy lifestyle.  The exploitation of man by man must stop before we destroy our beautiful country.

Long Live Belize!

 

 

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