The extension farm work with new technology and what seems to be the introduction to small farmers of selecting hybrid seeds, a fairly common practice in temperate zones, the program as announced in the Reporter article was very upbeat and encouraging.
What I found puzzling was that this mission started by Taiwan in Belize was reported as being started in 1990. That was nine years ago, or nearly ten years. And only now are we hearing about it? It does not seem to give any success rates with such a long running agricultural progam? Which makes one wonder what problems they are having? There is brief mention of selected seeds for rice farmers in Toledo and Stann Creek districts. While the Taiwanese Mission mention working with the Agricultural and Co-operative department, I've heard nothing in the media about any new farming producing, processing, storage, marketing co-operatives being formed. So obviously the co-operative department we can take it, as being non-functional. Correct me if I'm wrong here!
There is mention that a Taiwanese, Dr. Tsay is helping small farmers with world marketing problems for the local restricted number of agricultural produce crops. I would certainly think they would have export problems, unless they get quantity, quality control and packaging processing technology. There is nothing mentioned by the UCB Community College branch in either Toledo, or Cayo Districts about appropriate course work in these educational establishments, to support such small farmer cooperative development? While the article is upbeat and the Taiwanese think $42 million in exports can be generated, we here in the country on the ground, with experience in logistics, roads, finance, storage and transportation problems take that with a bit of skepticism. Still, I wish it were true!
For starters, any such small scale farmer projects, have about as much chance as a snowstorm in Crique Sarco, without a parallel program of co-operative development. The established citrus growers in Stann Creek District know that one! Where once a rugged individualist could make a few extra thousand dollars a year to supplement other income generation, with citrus on 10 or 20 acres, the statistics and studies say it is no longer cost effective under 50 acres and consolidation is the only option to citrus growers if they want to maintain their individuality. The only way they can encourage smaller farmers of 10 or 20 acres to continue to exist is through forming a GROWERS PROCESSING AND MARKETING CO-OPERATIVE. This enables the shared costs of fertilizing, maintainance and other things. The future is with a Growers Citrus Cooperative, or the small citrus rugged individualistic farmer is hearing the gong that sounds his funeral dirge.
It would be logical to presume that the same conditions exist for these farmers working with the Taiwanese Agricultural Mission. I look forward to hearing some success stories of this program after the reported nine years of operation. Or the problems they are encountering, if there are no successes yet! It is all useful education to others, including foreign investors. Certainly we would like to mount any such new found experience and knowledge on the Belize Electronic Resource and Development Library at: http://ambergriscaye.com/BzLibrary.
Good or bad, let's hear more about this agricultural mission of the Taiwanese!