The Department of Agriculture’s primary role is to develop and transfer environmentally friendly technologies that will make farming more sustainable and farmers more competitive. This is being accomplished with the collaboration of other partners in development like CARDI, IICA, ROC, BAHA, BMDC, Farmers Association (CREI), among others.
The department has four main thematic programs, three district agriculture stations and one experimental station at Central Farm. All the programs are headed by a National Coordinator and the four programs are: Livestock Development, Crop Development, Fruit Tree and Marketing, Agro-processing and Extension Services. The different programs provide vital services that include: farm visits, breeding stock, breeding services of all major livestock species, grafted and non-grafted fruit tree seedlings, hard wood seedlings, identify markets and conduct market studies, development of new value-added products, carrying out training for farmers and the development of technical materials, carry out research and other developmental activities, organize agriculture fairs/shows, liaise with other extension services within the country, and implement the programs and policies of the Ministry. The Ministry is also collaborating with the Ministry of Health in the pilot School Feeding Program which supplies once per week 800 needy children from the three target districts (Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo) with a dried fruit snack.
Over the last years the Ministry’s research program has focused also on the development of post-harvest management techniques and storage facilities. The latest technology being promoted is the use of several models of covered production (greenhouse-type) for vegetables. Within the crop program are the sub-programs of import substitution and modernization of the sector. The import substitution sub-program carries out R&D in new winter and non-traditional vegetables (celery, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce), onions, and potato, among others. The modernization program has introduced the use of precision planters, specialized equipment (air plaster, seed drill, etc).
The pilot School Feeding Program in collaboration with the Ministry of Education supplies once per week 800 needy children from the three target districts (Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo) with a dried fruit snack.
The agriculture sector has been the bedrock of the Belizean economy and the main source of livelihood of many generations. In 2006 it employed approximately 30% of the work force and contributed to 15% of GDP and 75% of foreign exchange. The achievements of the Department are many, but complacency will not set in as the many challenges and opportunities are yet to be resolved and fully taken advantage of so that the farming community can live better lives and the environment preserved for future generations. Agriculture no doubt has the potential of propelling greater economic growth for the country and can contribute significantly to reducing poverty.