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Dr. Victoriano Pascual hits the ground running as new Chief Agriculture Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture: ‘There’s a lot that can be done and that needs to get done’

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Posted: Friday, April 29, 2022. 10:18 am CST.

Photo Courtesy: Dr. Pascual

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Dr. Victoriano Pascual hit the ground running as the new interim Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE). Today, Friday, Pascual has a series of meetings which include the MAFSE Chief Executive Officer Servulo Baeza, senior officers, and core coordinators to discuss a better flow of communication and coordination, the programs and projects, and the strategies that need to be taken to improve the work and reach of the Ministry of Agriculture.

As of Monday, when the MAFSE announced that Andrew Harrison was retiring as CAO and that Pascual had been appointed as Interim CAO, Pascual has been having meeting after meeting with the different branches of the Agriculture Ministry to lay his plans and coordinate the work ahead.

“There’s a lot that can be done and that needs to get done,” said Pascual in an exclusive interview with Breaking Belize News (BBN).

His meeting today is part of getting the work done.

“So, therefore, this Friday I’m meeting with the team along with the CEO and some other senior people and our core coordinators to discuss a better flow of communication and coordination, to discuss the different sections and how we can strengthen them and hope we can actually improve in certain areas because this is not a Dr Pascual show, this is a ministry show,” said Pascual.

“We need to have proper coordination between all the coordinators. And only so we can achieve the desired output that we are looking for.”

“But the plan is that we must first strengthen our internal process of communication and coordination between the different programs and program coordinators. We have several programs, and we have several program coordinators. We need to strengthen those and ensure that we try to align them as best as possible. It is there to some extent, but I believe that the output of the ministry can be greater and more impactful if we strengthen the internal processes that we have,” he told BBN.

Pascual said that once they have their work plan and strategies clear, they can be more efficient when working with the main stakeholders.

“We work with small, medium, and large farmers and producers’ organizations and they all have unique challenges. The ministry has been working on addressing them, but I think that we need to be more focused and more efficient.

“There are several projects from different partners that support the ministry and that support farmers but as such, it boils down to coordination and planning of these resources from all these projects for us to maximize the resources and ensure that we can get the desired outcome,” he said emphatically.

And Pascual knows what he is talking about. He has been with the Ministry of Agriculture for the last 13 years as a project officer working in the field and then as the Coordinator of Water Management and Climate Change. During this time, he has acted in the CAO position several times when outgoing CAO Harrison was out on holidays and duty leave.

Pascual has a heavy agriculture background as well. Not only does he hold a Doctorate Degree in Irrigation Engineering gained in 2017 from the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan, but he has also been around agriculture since his high school days at the Belize High School of Agriculture in San Lazaro, Orange Walk from 1993 to 1997.

After that, he pursued an Associate Degree in Agriculture at the Belize College of Agriculture in Central Farm. He then worked at Nova Shrimp Farm as a lab technician, storekeeper, and plant supervisor.

Dr. Pascual said thereafter he earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Belize in 2000. That led him to teaching Integrated Science at St Michael’s College in Belize City before he got a scholarship to Taiwan where he earned a master’s degree in Plant Science and Pathology at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in 2008.

On his return, he joined MAFSE as a project officer before returning to Pingtung for his Ph.D. in 2013.

Pascual recalls his first years at MAFSE as a project officer had a lot to do with climate change.

“At that time, we were starting to hear more about climate change and water management. So that’s the reason why I chose that field. To come up and assist in the Ministry as it relates to climate change and water management due to the constraints we were having,” he said.

“For most of the time I was a project officer working in the field with the various projects, primarily the diversification component of the accompanying measure for sugar. We helped in working with sugarcane farmers and other farmers in Orange Walk District, those growing onions and so forth. All of that was under the European Union (EU) accompanying measure for sugar to assist sugar cane farmers in diversification.”

Pascual said that agriculture is extremely important to Belize’s economy but recognizes that it is a risky business. Resources are limited, he told BBN, but MAFSE needs to maximize those resources and work closely with its partners to access more funding because they must do right by the stakeholders.

“We cannot stop our officers from providing the technical service because farmers out there need technical support, they need technical service. They need to be on the ground, and they need to ensure that they get the job done because we know the importance of agriculture,” he concluded.

 

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