belizeBelize is located on the north eastern coast of Central America, and is the only country in the region with English as official language although Kriol and Spanish are commonly spoken. The population is 333,200 (2010), with the lowest population density in the region but with the highest growth rate of 2.21 percent (2008). Belmopan is the capital. The country is divided into six administrative districts, which are further divided into 31 constituencies.

Context

Context

Belize has tropical climate, with about 60 percent of its land covered by forests. Agriculture is vital for country’s economy as it employs over one-third of country’s labor force. Sugar is the largest agricultural export, other exports being bananas, citrus fruits, fish product, molasses and wood. Although 38 percent of the land area is considered potentially agricultural, only 10 to 15 percent is in use in any one year, and half of which remains under pastures.

Most farmers are small. In the past, the government financing has favored large, export-oriented farms. The traditional system of shifting cultivation (milpa) is gradually being replaced by permanent use of land by farmers. 

Key Statistics and Indicators

Indicator

Value

Year  

Agricultural land (sq km)

Agricultural land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares)

Arable land (% of land area)

Arable land (hectares per person)

1520

6.66

70000

3.06

0.21

2009

2009

2009

2009

2009

Fertilizer consumption (per hectare of arable land)

129.77

2009

Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

Food production index (2004-2006 = 100)

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)

12.17

88

60.86

16.53

2008

2009

2010

2010

GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)

3810

2010

Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

Literacy rate, youth male (% of males ages 15-24)

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)

70.30

76.7

76.1

100.74

97.70

1991

1991

2010

Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

Internet users (per 100 people)

194201

43627.78

2010

2010

Population, total

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

Rural population*

Rural population (% of total population)*

Agricultural population (% of total population)*

Total economically active population**

Total economically active population in agriculture*

Total economically active population in agriculture (in %

    of total economically active population)

Female economically active population in agriculture (% of

     total economically active population in agriculture)*

344700

15.12

149000

43.22

21.75

144868

31000

21.39

0.69

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

2010

Sources: The World Bank; *Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO

{/tab}

History

history of extension and the enabling/disabling environment

National agricultural extension service was introduced in Belize around 1920s at the same time when the Ministry of Agriculture was created. In 1953, the training hostel of the Central Farm in the Kayo district started offering a three-month course for Farm Demonstrators, who were later called as Extension Officers. The extension service has evolved over the years but its primary objective, the transfer of technology to farmers, has remained unchanged.

Belize has a unique extension environment, with only one staff, the national extension coordinator, being at the national level with little secretarial support. He has heavy administrative load and inadequate time for field supervision and technical guidance. Most of the extension staff has associate degree/diploma and that too not necessarily in extension; very few staff members have Bachelor degrees. Extension staff has too many non-extension jobs to perform, such as data collection, flood damage assessment, population census, implementation of donor-funded project activities, cattle sweep, etc. There is no agricultural research institute and as such no local source of improved technologies. Similarly, there are no laboratories for soil or plant analysis and the samples have to be sent overseas for analysis. On top of that, the budget allocated to agriculture sector in 2011 was only 1.14 % of the total national development budget, meaning that the extension budget is really very low. The country has recently been hit by major hurricanes causing huge losses of crops, livestock and infrastructure.

Recent re-organization of the ministries at the national level led to the re-distribution of responsibilities. Presently, two ministries are most relevant for extension: first Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, and the other, Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development. 

In 2011, major recommendations have been made under an FAO project TCP/BZE/3204 to reform the extension services in Belize. A national policy of extension and a strategic action plan have been formulated in a participatory manner, involving public and non-public stakeholders. The government is serious about implementing the recommendations as indicated by the creation, for the very first time in the country, of a post of Director of Extension at the national level.

Many donors are active in the Caribbean region and some have offices in Belize, which have provided in-service training opportunities to the extension staff.  A good project proposal on implementing extension reforms outlined under the FAO project could have reasonable chances of attracting donors.

Most of the donor-funded projects are regional, covering several Caribbean countries while a few are just for Belize. Some examples are:

  • Global Environment Facility (GEF): Spiny Lobster Project
  • Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA): Aquaculture project
  • Spain: Poverty Level in Fishing Communities Project
  • FAO: Strengthening the National Agricultural Extension System Project; Fresh Water Aquaculture Project
  • World Bank: Belize Marine Conservation and Climate Adaptation
  • Republic of China, Taiwan retains its Technical Mission in Belize and is engaged in several technical assistance activities.
  • Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI): CARDI has an office in Belize. As Belize does not yet have its own agricultural research institute, the research done by CARDI also benefits the country.
  • Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA): IICA has an office in Belize.
  • Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health
  • RUTA

Extension Providers

Major institutions providing extension/advisory services

Public Institutions

Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture 

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture (recently given new name; the old name was Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperative) is the sole public institution responsible for providing extension services throughout the country. Its Extension Directorate is staffed by a single person, that is, Director of Extension. The Ministry also covers aquaculture and cooperatives.

Each district comprises several zones. The Ministry has office of agriculture in each district which has a team of Extension Officers headed by District Agricultural Officer who is responsible for coordination of agricultural activities in the district and as such handles administrative matters. The district offices provide extension services to farmers in crops, vegetables, livestock, horticulture, aquaculture and cooperatives.

The established professional posts in extension organization comprise one national level Director of Extension, six District Agriculture Coordinators and 28 Extension Officers. In addition, there is certain temporary staff. The human resources in extension as recorded in May 2012 are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Human Resources in Agricultural Extension as of May 2012

Based at

Number

Position

Ministry of Natural Resources & Agriculture

1

National Director of Extension

Corozal District

1

District Agriculture Coordinator

 

2

Extension Officer II

 

1

Extension Officer I

Orange Walk District

1

District Agriculture Coordinator (a.i.)

 

4

Extension Officer II

Belize

1

District Agriculture Coordinator

 

5

Extension Officer II

Cayo District

1

District Agriculture Coordinator

 

2

Extension Officer II

 

1

Extension Officer I

Irrigation Unit (Cayo)

1

In-charge

 

1

Extension Officer I

Stann Creek District

1

District Agriculture Coordinator

 

4

Extension Officer II

 

1

Foreman

Toledo District

1

District Agriculture Coordinator

 

3

Extension Officer II

 

1

Extension Officer I

Central Farm, Sugar Control Board, Banana, Marketing, Cayo and on study-leave or extended sick-leave

7

Various positions

Total staff

40

 

Source: Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture; May, 2012

Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development (MFFSD) 

This ministry provides extension advice to foresters and sea water fishermen. It also collaborates with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Central Farm

Belize does not have a conventional agricultural research institute. The institution that comes closest to research function is the Central Farm which has quite a high number of staff mostly involved in conducting varietal and adaptation trials. At times, extension officers get in touch with the farm staff on personal basis to consult on technical issues. For the time being, the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI) branch located in Belize also covers research befitting local needs although it is not its mandate.

University of Belize 

The University of Belize has its school of agriculture adjacent to the Central Farm. It is a rather small school. About 12 students were enrolled in 2011 in a two-year agricultural certificate program. The university is not engaged in any extension activities although it is willing to have joint activities with the government extension service.

Non-Public Institutions

Private sector

A number of private companies come in contact with farmers to sell their fertilizers, pesticides and other farm inputs. Occasional advice is given by the sellers to the farmers in how to apply the farm inputs.  They do not provide extension advice on regular basis.

Non-governmental organizations

Belize is full of NGOs, both national (example: Ya’ Axche Conservation Trust) and international (example: Sustainable Harvest International-Belize). In 2009, about 97 NGOs were operating in Belize out of which 40% were located in the southern part of the country. About 35% were engaged in activities related to agriculture and environment. NGOs’ funding comes usually from donors and donor-funded projects. Some of them are involved in extension related work at grassroots level within the framework of the project they drew funding from. Sustainable Harvest International has its own extension staff.

Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies

There are over 100 producers’ associations, cooperatives and societies, but the significant ones are

These associations enjoy a large membership, have good physical facilities, marketing arrangements, and have their own extension staff which provides extension advice to the member producers in order to ensure that the produce is of high quality. The number of such extension staff varies from one to six, and the combined number of extension officers in these five associations is 18.

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Belize. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.

Training

Training options for extension professionals

In terms of pre-service education, most extension staff members have got their certificates from University of Belize, but the staff presently with university degrees had to go to other countries to earn those degrees.  There is no institute in Belize exclusively meant for in-service training. Training courses can be organized at any facility such as the Central Farm. Some of the staff has received short-term training from overseas.

ICT

Info-mediaries and information and communication technology (ict) for agriculture and extension

Belize has an ICT policy just as it has a national ICT strategy. Belize National ICT Center was established some time ago under a regional program. The Taiwan Technical Assistance Mission opened a new ICT Center in the capital Belmopan in August 2010. However, the ICT has not yet been applied to any aspect of agriculture.

According to the World Bank, in 2010, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Belize was 194201. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 43627.78.

In 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperative recruited an information officer to cover Ministry’s events. The extension organization does not have any information and communication facility. Unlike in many developing countries, no radio or television programs exist in Belize for farmers. The ICT has not yet touched the extension service and its extension and training materials are limited to mainly printed materials.

Resources

Resources and references

Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) (2008). Belize: Country Highlights

Eck Sr., D. (May 2009). Assessment of Farmers’ Organizations in Belize in Order to Strengthen the National Extension System. FAO Consultancy Report

Flowers, G., J.C. Namis and A. Montserin. (2011). Belize National ICT Strategy; 2011 ICT Benchmarking Report

Gingell, D.S. (2009). National ICT Policy for the Government of Belize: Scoping Exercise. Final Report 28 February, 2009. Ministry for the Public Service, Governance Improvements, Elections and Boundaries

Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). (2010)  Annual Report 2010

Itza, C.A. (May 2009). Assessment of the Private and NGOs in Order to Strengthen the National Extension Service. Rome: FAO Consultancy Report

Jones, D.N. (May 2009). Strengthening of the National Extension Service: National Stakeholders’ Consultation. Workshop Report. Belize Enterprise for Sustainable Technology (BEST)

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperative. The National Food and Agriculture Policy 2002-2020

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperative. Reference Guide for the Extension Service; June 2006

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperative. Agricultural Production Statistics for 2010

Pesticides Control Board (2008). 1988-2008: A 20th Anniversary Commemorative Publication

Qamar, M.K. (May 2011). Modernizing Agricultural Extension Services of Belize (Central America). Rome: FAO Consultancy Report prepared under the project TCP/BZE/3204 (contains national policy on extension, a strategic action plan, and recommended re-structuring of the extension organization which is now in the process of being implemented)

Young, R.A. (May 2009). Public Extension Service. Rome: FAO Consultancy Report

Feedback ?

Do you have corrections or additions to this article? Please use the commenting feature below to submit your contribution. And please be specific, point out what is missing, what is wrong, or what needs to be updated.

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Thank you!

 

Acknowledgements

  • Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (June 2012)
  • Edited by Burt E. Swanson
  • Latest information on extension organization and staff provided by Ricardo R. Thompson, until recently the National Extension Coordinator of Belize

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