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“We have to always have in mind, that we are here to support the farmers,” says Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai

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Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2021. 9:05 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Recently the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise of Agriculture had its annual General Meeting, which had not been held for a number of years, and on Friday, Minister Jose Abelardo Mai and his staff complete their tour of six districts in Corozal.

“Whenever we finish this, it’s better we begin again, but we need to continue supporting the farmers,” said Minister Mai in an exclusive conversation with Breaking Belize News at the end of the tour of Orange Walk.

But why the AGM and the national tour?

“So, when you’re out there, the farmer feels that he is being supported and he is confident that the government is taking care of his affairs and that is what we have to always have in mind, that we are here to support the farmers,” Mai summed it up.

“The Annual General Meeting was very important because people need to report what they have been doing. People need to see how much we have succeeded. Have we met our objectives? Have we met our goals? And that was very important,” he said of the AGM.

He added that the young staff at the Minister is eager to do the job well.

“We have a lot of young technicians and they also want to report what they’re doing. That’s a part of their job. They feel excited when they report what they are doing and they did a magnificent job presenting what they’ve done.”

Mai said that the AGM also serves to connect all the pieces that will make agriculture move forward.

“They also presented their plans for the year. Again, that’s very important for us and for the private sector because the private sector and our partners in development want to see where we’re going? They want to know what is our agriculture policy, what is our strategy, and where we are going, so that their plans are also connected to our plans. So, that was very important.

“Thirdly, what it does is it gives the technician the opportunity to compete amongst each other. If one technician sees that another one is doing something, he wants to do better than that. So, it is good because it stimulates competition, it stimulates performance,” Mai said.

And having worked at the Ministry of Agriculture in his younger days, Mai says he’s lived the experience and he wants it to work.

“Yes, yes, yes. I was an employee of Ministry of Agriculture for 18 years. I was an extension officer, then I moved up to Director of Extension. So, I was around for a while. So, I know what the AGM does, and it also allows for the staff to socialize, to get to know each other better. And Stann Creek knows what Orange Walk is doing, Orange Walk knows what Corozal and it’s an exchange of ideas, thoughts, and experiences. It’s a wonderful event and I think it is showing off now.”

As to the field trip, he says that for agriculture to prosper, all the interconnected parties need to work in tandem.

“Today now in this field trip, my entire staff, administrative and technical. The administration needs to know what the extension officer is doing out there, what it takes for him to do the job because they prepare purchase orders. When you ask for something. What is that? Why are you buying so much? Now they see and understand exactly what the extension officer is doing. So, when you request for something, it is without a doubt something that he requires to do the job.”

Moreover, he says the interaction amongst the staff, and the staff with the farmers, is the way to go. And Mai has made it a point everywhere he goes to tell the farmers that all the work is because of his staff.

In fact, at Blue Creek last Friday, he asked his staff to stand and be recognized and they got a thundering applause from the Mennonite community.

“And again, it gives us the opportunity to socialize. It is a retreat. They enjoy it. You can see the enjoy it. They learn new things on the field. Like today, they were very keen when Max Hernandez was presenting the San Carlos experience; they were very keen listening. Why farmers do certain things. So, I think it is a healthy thing for the agriculture family.”

And that’s the reason, Mai says the Ministry has to keep reaching out to the farmers.

“We have to always have in mind, that we are here to support the farmers.”

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