Scores of agriculture enthusiasts converged from 28 to 30 April 2023- at the National Agriculture and Trade Show (NATS) organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise. The NATS is one of the largest agricultural events in Belize attracting farmers, agribusinesses and stakeholders. It provides a platform for exhibitors to showcase their latest agricultural technologies, products and services and a space to discuss key issues affecting the sector.
At the event, CARDI showcased some of the latest research and development initiatives in Belize. Among these were, ongoing work to identify tolerant crop varieties and its flagship seed and grain programme. On a smaller scale the Institute is also involved in the production of hot pepper seeds. Visitors were able to learn about these initiatives through interactive displays and discussions with staff. In keeping with the theme of the event “Innovations in Technology: Driving a Climate Resilient and Competitive Agriculture and Food Sector” a coconut climber designed by a farmer, and a portable nursery and plastic mulcher developed by CARDI Belize were displayed. The latter was developed using open source designs and can lay irrigation tape and plastic simultaneously.
Visitors to the booth also got the opportunity to view several value added products. There was particularly high interest by visitors for a pepper mash produced by CARDI and the University of Belize using the discarded pulp from the hot pepper seed production programme.
Roberto Can, Graduate Assistant represented the Institute on the judging panel for the Farmers of Year competition.
Mr Adrian Bartley was adjudged, Male Farmer of the Year. Currently, he cultivates 5 acres of land with a variety of vegetables including habanero, tomatoes and sweet pepper and rears chickens. All produce are sold at the markets in Belize City and Belmopan. Mr. Bartley has employed several climate smart, on-farm practices and would soon introduce greenhouse technology. In the future, he plans to work with farmers in his community to have a registered organisation.
The Female Farmer of the Year title was won by Ms. Esmeralda Stanley. On her 30 acres farm in the Toledo District, Ms Stanley cultivates lime, coconut, cassava and pineapple to feed her family and to sell at the market. Ms. Stanley has also diversified her operations into livestock production, poultry rearing and agro processing.
Axel Perez, a 23 years old from Corozal District is the Youth Farmer of the Year. He is the holder of an Associate Degree in Agri Business and operates a 12 acre family farm where a range of short term crops are produced using irrigation and fertigation. Axel is also a bee keeper and dedicates 3 acres to his apiary. In the future he plans to further his studies to become an Agronomist.
As part of their prize package CARDI donated seeds for corn, bean and hot pepper – sufficient to establish one acre each. In addition, the CARDI team will provide free technical advice to all winners for one year.