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FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

FAO’s implements project to boost sheep production in Northern Belize

Project also offering support for Onion Producers and Beekeepers.

August 26, 2015, Fidel Pineda, a man of his late fifties into early sixties rises early to attend to his flock of sheep, checking that the same number is there as the night before.  He knows them by colors, size, shape, mannerisms, and even their unique personalities.  Pineda’s farm is located in a village just outside of the town of Corozal, what would have been a viable sugar cane plantation only a few years ago.  He spoke often of the days when cane was King. 

Pineda is one of 100 sheep farmers who are a part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s (FAO) project to promote Agribusiness development in Northern Belize. The project is a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture in Belize, with Funding by the European Union and also targets 150 Onion Producers and 100 Beekeepers.

Launched since January 2015, the project aims to reduce poverty and improve the livelihood opportunities for the rural population in Corozal and Orange Walk.

Pineda who gave FAO’s consultant Ludwig Palacio a detailed look at his life as a sheep farmer recounted several challenges that farmers

   have to overcome to be sustainable.                             

  

Challenges faced by Sheep Farmers

One such challenge as Pineda highlighted is his experiences with lending institutions-The exorbitant interest rates, his friends losing their farms, machinery, their lands, houses and the financial and asset losses from failed projects.  As a long term farmer, he believes that there has to be a better way.  While he is not against credit, he believed that this must be made more affordable and accessible but along with education for the farmers. 

Pineda also noted that farmers need to be more organized to meet market demands.  This, he believed, can only be achieved when farmers are educated with producers learning from the best practitioners. 

From his end, he has plans to visit a commercial sheep farmer in a nearby country to see how production is done and also to buy improved breeds to add to his stock.

FAO’s Intervention

Similar to the issues lamented by Pineda, several Belizean Sheep farmers face this and other issues which affect them from production to marketing.  The FAO’s Economic Diversification of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Northern Belize project therefore aims to assist farmers with these and many other issues.  These issues will be addressed through key project activities including: Capacity building in the use of Value Chain Methodologies; Improving Production, Post-Harvest Practices and Marketing, Farmer Field Schools and on farm demonstrations.  It is hoped that through this project successful outcomes will include: 

  • Increased employment opportunities and Improved livelihoods for over 350 small scale farm families;
  •  Increased Production of onion, honey and sheep by removing key production constraints;
  • Increased Profitability and greater revenues for rural producers of the 3 commodities; 
  • Increased Value Chain Efficiency and Improved technical skills for Extension Officers and
  • Enhanced extension services to farmers.

For Sheep farmers like Pineda, often their hope and commitment to the cause is what keeps them going. As Pineda so quietly demonstrated on the farm with his flock he learns patience, determination, precision, love and kindness.  Pineda genuinely enjoys spending time watching the sheep as they graze while he ponders and imagines a bigger flock to meet the growing demand for mutton in Belize.  With the support of the FAO project he is confident that there will be some positive steps.

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