The Agro-Processing Program is one that promises to upgrade the income of youth and women. It is currently the Pilot Program of Belize’s soy sauce production and commercialized dehydrated papaya program. Today, the program which is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture and the Technical Mission of the Republic of China Taiwan, was officially launched.

“Empowering women and youth for income generation”
It is under this theme that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture along with the Technical Mission of the Republic of China, Taiwan, launched the National Agro-processing Training Program in the City of Belmopan. The project is a social benefit program which according to Food Specialist from the ROC Taiwan Technical Mission, Carson Huang, started in 2006. He told us how the program has grown.

CARSON HUANG, Food Specialist, ROC-Technical Mission
“The project started from 2006; we spent time on a Women’s Group Training, a Vocational Student Training and very important was a Soy Sauce Project that is a government project in this country.”
The Registrar of Cooperatives, during his keynote speech pointed out that this initiative is important for growth in the Agriculture sector.
GARETH MURILLO, Registrar of Cooperatives, MNRA
“Agriculture is one of the cornerstones of the Belizean economy but in recent times it has diminishing returns. Agro processing offers the potential to counteract this and improve opportunities particularly for small producers. This potential is significant as it can reduce wastage, enhance food security, improve livelihoods for low income groups and as more often than not as they are the ones engaged in it, empower women.”
However, Murillo says that producers experience challenges in access of dated or relevant information about technology to improve production and also lack organizational capacity and resources for analyzing the causes for livelihood that they experience and planning and implementing actions to address those.
GARETH MURILLO, Registrar of Cooperatives, MNRA
“With appropriate skills and organizational capacity, small producers can be empowered to take control of their own development and plan for their collective future. Through building their confidence and strengthening links with government and non-government institutions, they can access available resources to fulfill their plans. Further to this program though, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture seeks to foster and support a spirit of entrepreneurship within small producers as we recognize that this is a key factor for economic prosperity and potential employment creation.”
Huang explained that the initiative carries a nationwide agenda however, the focus is primarily in the northern districts at this point in time. He explained that for the training to be effective it had to be separated into two different areas, that of vocational training and women’s group training. Meanwhile, Director of Extension in the Ministry of Agriculture Belarmino Esquivel says they have identified crucial areas in which more training is needed.
“Those areas have been the hydrated pineapple, pineapple yogurt, crystalized ginger, soy sauce and cacao powder among others. “

GARETH MURILLO, Registrar of Cooperatives, MNRA
“By participating you have indicated that you are willing and we encourage that you be cognizant of these facts and take advantage of them as it is through building people’s skills and capacities, helping them to be aware of their choices and giving them the confidence that exercises their rights, that whole communities can develop their own visions for the future and take their own actions and realize that vision.”
The ceremony was followed by an agro-processing display in which participants showcased the products they are making under the program.
The  Launching Ceremony was held at the Agriculture Showground’s Multi-Purpose Building. Other speakers at the event included the Head of the ROC Taiwan Mission, Fernando Yeh, who gave the opening remarks, as well as Counselor at the ROC Embassy, Henry Fan.

For further information on how to join or take advantage of the program contact the Agro-processing Unit of MNRA at 501-804-2079 or contact us here at BELTRAIDE for further assistance.