The highly respected and influential organizations Regeneration Belize (RB) 1 and Pro-Organic Belize (POB) 2, and their members and affiliated organizations, go to great lengths in Belize to promote sustainable agronomic practices that protect and restore soils and thus indirectly improve human activity. health, with less and less dependence on the use of synthetic / chemical inputs (both fertilizers and pesticides).
Within the two organizations, discussions are underway on advocacy that promotes regenerative agriculture3 as a key element of the agronomic strategy to be considered in the context of the exploratory initiative of the Government of Belize through from the Department of New Growth Industries, to assess the feasibility of developing a -use hemp-marijuana (CBD-THC) industry for Belize. The debate is whether there should be diversification along this line at all.
Put in perspective, the discussion within organizations highlighted, as it did in society at large, strong differences of view – mainly for health and moral reasons – on whether Belize should stick to a hemp-only production strategy or diversify into the commercialization of lucrative, high-yielding, medicinal / recreational marijuana varieties.
Thus, at a fundamental level, RB and POB consider public and farmer education as an essential component of this initiative in order to generate a better understanding of the relevant issues involved. They also consider it essential to generate a public appreciation for the differences and commonalities between the fiber, food source and other potential marketed uses of hemp, and the medicinal therapeutic value derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant. related as viable enterprises.
The generally observed wisdom is that if well implemented, these initiatives can significantly provide pragmatic diversification in the agricultural sector and expand its contribution to economic growth through an adaptive and sustainable regeneration strategy and action plan. weather.
Regeneration Belize is the Belize chapter of the international NGO, Regeneration International (RI), which was formed in June 2015, when some 60 participants from 21 nations – entrepreneurs, farmers and scientists, representatives of educational institutions, policy makers and NGOs – have come together in Costa Rica to form the international movement called Regeneration International. The RI is committed to a common goal: to reverse global warming and end world hunger by facilitating and accelerating the global transition to “regenerative” agriculture. The mission of Regeneration Belize, which was formed in 2018, is to raise awareness and facilitate the exchange of information regarding the benefits of regenerative farming systems for farmers, government agencies and representatives, consumers, organizations sharing same ideas and the public.
RB’s activities derive from this and focus on regenerating ecological health, including soil fertility and biodiversity through public education initiatives and technical advisory support to stakeholders, including research services. and extension of the Ministry of Agriculture.
RB’s overarching goals promote regenerative agricultural systems, in principle and in practice, that increase biodiversity, enrich soils, improve watersheds and enhance ecosystem services. Through its educational orientation, RB’s activities focus on all farmers, regardless of their size, promoting the benefits of regenerative agriculture. This natural science-derived method of reviving life in the soil – often impoverished by chemical inputs – fundamentally relies on harnessing the symbiotic benefits of photosynthesis combined with a range of soil regenerative organic material sources that any farmer can acquire. or produce, and apply.
RB accesses the biannual publication, The Belize Ag Report, for dissemination of its articles and is well established in social media. He has followed the development of the nascent hemp industry and contributed to the national debate on its potential multiple uses at the Government of Belize’s National Hemp Symposium in 2018.
Pro-Organic Belize Pesticide-Free Consumer Group (POBCG) was established in 2016 as part of POB’s mission to educate, inspire and encourage farmers regarding the benefits and opportunities of a pro-organic sustainable agriculture that regenerates the soil, and to educate consumers on the health benefits of pesticide-free products. Through education and support services, POB helps farmers and consumers understand the benefits and opportunities of growing and consuming organically grown food, which involves a critical change in the ‘agriculture to avoid the use of toxic chemicals that compromise the integrity of the environment, our food, water, soil and health to more profitable natural farming practices that promote well-being and sustainability. POB believes that hemp is a viable resource for raw materials that can be incorporated into approximately 50,000 commercial products and is now legally cultivated in over 30 countries around the world.
POB Karen Westdyk’s article in issue 44 of The Belize Ag Report’s “Quest for the Right Cultivars” observes that “Hemp is not only much more environmentally friendly, but it can save health and pockets. of our farmers far more than traditional agricultural crops, because it requires less water, little or no pesticides, and eliminates the need for expensive toxic weedkillers when used in rotation, and hemp will actually clean the soil of contaminants wherever it is grown.
POB expresses scientific confidence that hemp could be a very large part of the solution to the problems associated with climate change, with compromised soil, water and air pollution, as well as the economic hardships currently facing the vicissitudes of COVID. -19 pandemic.
Ms Westdyk comments, “Lucky for us, the world is responding by encouraging farmers to grow it after nearly 100 years of a disinformation-based ban by grouping it with its cousin, marijuana.
POB sees the need for a cautious approach in developing the national hemp and marijuana industry in Belize, noting the difficulties many states face in attempting to do so. Investment proposals should be evaluated by experts. It is fortunate that such expertise can be obtained pro bono. A vital and accessible source of such expertise is the NGO 613Partners, 4 which has expressed its readiness to provide advice on the development of all aspects of the national hemp and marijuana industry in Belize.
Who should benefit?
A careful and practical approach is needed on the part of the Government of Belize to identify the sources and contributing inputs for technical assessments, focusing on soil, seed and cultivar issues, geographic dispersal strategies, a strategy smallholder industry engagement, licensing of farmers, quality control and identification of reliable sources of strategic investment advice.
One area of particular interest for possible pilot targeting is that of northern sugar cane producing districts, where sugar cane producers are increasingly displaced due to low productivity, quality issues, costs. high inputs and growing diseconomies resulting from intra-industry manipulation induced by processors. Cultivation of hemp and marijuana appears to be the logical and most attractive alternative crop for diversification in the region, which historically was a central area for the illegal production of marijuana, which is mostly organically grown.
At present, a research-driven adaptive regenerative agriculture strategy is already an integral part of the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Business to boost agricultural enterprise to improve food security. national. One can foresee how a carefully planned strategy with the required level of field research and extension services can contribute to the diversification of the northern region into new areas of activity.
In accordance with this policy, RB-POB has embarked on credible initiatives to mobilize a critical mass of efforts necessary to integrate regenerative and organic agriculture as the appropriate agronomic framework for the development of agricultural enterprises in Belize. These laudable initiatives must be encouraged and supported
It should also be noted that the RB-POB is aware of some of the key points that the Government of Belize should keep in mind in the policy review process:
• Recognize the need for strategic investment advice and assistance for all levels of agro-industries and processors from their early start-up phases – from compliance to understanding global market trends to procurement good genetics for specific climatic conditions.
• Recognize the important role of a smallholder engagement strategy that encourages hassle-free entry opportunities for the poorest of the poor while promoting the efficiency and benefits of cooperative enterprises.
• Emphasizing the importance of having a strong regulatory framework managed by knowledgeable public professionals and knowledgeable cannabis regulators who understand the criticality of all phases of the process
• Seeking sound technical advice to understand the dynamics of cannabis regulation and apply best practices from lessons learned from other regional markets already engaged in the business.
• Learn from the experience of other regional and tropical lowland producers, particularly in establishing and maintaining internationally recognized and accepted standards in all phases of breeding, cultivation, processing and marketing seeds and cultivars.
It is generally accepted that adherence to these formative considerations will provide the government of Belize with a solid basis for formulating its policy, strategy and plan of action for the development of a national hemp and marijuana industry as a pillar. national economic recovery and growth.
David Gibson CSSPAR March 2021
Comparison of organic, agroecological and regenerative agriculture part 3 – Regenerative