Posted: Friday, May 20, 2022. 9:59 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Belize is borrowing $50 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a subsidiary of the World Bank, to fund a Climate Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture Project.
But for Lead Opposition Senator Michael Peyrefitte, though it was difficult the devil was in the details, or lack of them: “When you come with these overall rounded-sounding things without any particular details as to how it will be distributed in the real, then we are at a loss as to how exactly you will go about distributing this.”
For instance, he questioned what was meant by “this Project will provide funding for support to agriculture producers, with an emphasis on individual smallholder farmers who are transitioning to more commercial production, while also supporting more established commercial farmers and farmer associations that wish to adopt climate-smart practices to improve the sustainability of their enterprises” – whether this meant actually buying equipment, seeds and so on, or working with farmers in projects on the ground. He ultimately concluded that it doesn’t appear any of the spoils will directly reach farmers.
Business Community Senator Kevin Herrera noted that a majority of Belizeans, 54 percent, live in rural areas, and most of them work in agriculture, which contributes 22 percent of gross domestic product – but the vagaries of weather and climate can wreak havoc.
“And so in terms of looking at the welfare of our rural population, in terms of looking at food security, in terms of looking at trying to keep that rural population out of poverty, I think it is extremely important that we continue to look at climate-resilient agriculture,” said Herrera, adding that far more is needed, as 60 percent of agriculture is dedicated to four major crops and the rest covering smaller sectors. He also called for objectivity in the distribution of funding and projects moving forward.
Leader of Government Business Senator Eamon Courtenay referred Senators to the accompanying schedule to the motion, which speaks to supporting established organizations in the agricultural sector to in turn support farmers. The Social Investment Fund (SIF) will be responsible for the management of the project in conjunction with the Ministry’s Project Management Unit, overseen by a steering committee.
“The difference here is that through this innovative and forward-looking project, the result will not end up on a Minister’s farm in the Cayo District…” Courtenay stated, adding that the World Bank’s procurement regulations will be strictly adhered to.
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