10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Belize

Belize is a small country located in Central America, along the Caribbean Sea. It has the lowest population in Central America, populated by 385,854 people. It is an English speaking country comprised of people from several different ethnic backgrounds. Tourism makes up the greater part of the economy of Belize, as it contains beautiful islands with crystal-clear waters that attract people year-round. Belize is both a destination and a home for many. Despite the tourist-rich islands, poverty is widespread throughout the country and its effects remain prevalent in many lives. Below is a list of the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Belize.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belize

  1. As of 2018, the average life expectancy in Belize is 74.7 years. For females, the average is 76.3 years, while the males’ average is slightly lower at 73.1 years old. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, this life expectancy ranks 122nd globally. The life expectancy in Belize has improved over the past few decades, increasing from an average of 71.1 years in 1990.
  2. About 40 percent of the annual deaths in Belize is comprised of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease. The second greatest mortality rates result from injuries and external causes at about 28 percent annually. An additional 20 percent results from communicable diseases, such as HIV, which continues to be a concern throughout Belize.
  3. The country’s high homicide rate specifically affects male life expectancy. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Belize is continually ranked on the top 10 list for world homicides. Gang violence is extremely present in Belize City, making homicide one of the leading causes of death in males, alongside HIV and road traffic incidents.
  4. Poverty is most prevalent within the child population of Belize. While 41 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line, approximately 49.3 percent of all children live in poverty. Children are less likely to overcome poverty since they cannot fully provide for themselves.
  5. There is a substantial impact on the indigenous population in Belize from poverty. Of all children under the age of five, 18 percent suffer from stunting; However, this percentage jumps to 50 percent when looking at the indigenous community.
  6. Belize has high access to clean resources. 99.5 percent of the population has access to a water source. One factor is the significant amount of the population that lives along the coast. Another 90.5 percent of the population has access to a sanitation facility. The high percentage of access to water and sanitation allows for better overall health in the country, aiding the life expectancy in Belize.
  7. Belize is susceptible to natural disasters such as hurricanes and coastal flooding between June and November. Due to flooding and infrastructure, the damage comes lack or difficulty to access clean resources, such as water. As a result, sanitary conditions are put in jeopardy. Furthermore, this gives way to the spread of waterborne illness or infectious disease, specifically in children, who are more vulnerable to sickness. Ultimately, being detrimental to life expectancy in Belize.
  8. The Belize Health Structure Strategic plan was created in 2014 to improve the country’s health sector by 2024. The goal is to develop a Primary Health care based system through integrated health service delivery networks. This will both positively impact the health of the population while creating more sustainable outcomes.
  9. The World Bank Group has created an objective to improve youth employability and at-risk youth inclusion. This is a targeted program to enhance the employment of youth, and specifically at-risk youth males, ages 8-19, who are susceptible to street violence and crime. It aims to provide young people with the skills needed to work and motivation to remain employed.
  10. The World Health Organization created a country cooperation strategy agenda with four specific priorities from 2017-2021. The goal is to achieve a higher quality of life for all people in Belize. The agenda includes health systems accessible to all, human resources for the growing population, promoting health and wellness to reduce the major causes of death, and addressing health emergencies to the public.

The top 10 facts about life expectancy in Belize reveal the country’s continual struggle with poverty and its impacts on health and well being; However, it simultaneously shines a light on the significant steps the country and government is taking. With a constantly increasing population, the next decade of growth and improvement is crucial for the country of Belize.

– Savannah Huls

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Belize
Belize is a small Central American country on the coast of the Caribbean with a per capita income of $4,806.50. Although it is considered an upper-middle income country, 41 percent of the population in Belize live below the national poverty line. Poverty in Belize makes many groups vulnerable to crimes and human rights violations such as human and drug trafficking and violence from gang involvement. However, the government is making an effort to address these issues and make human rights a larger priority. Below are the top ten facts about human rights in Belize.

10 Facts About Human Rights in Belize

  1. Previously identified as having violated human rights by The United States Department of State Human Rights Report, Belize has since addressed many issues, specifically in race relations. In The USDS Human Rights Report for 2016, employers in Belize were reported to have, “generally treated indigenous persons equally with other ethnic groups for employment and other purposes” despite the fact there are still some basic areas that still need to be improved in general workers rights.
  2. The recently-released 2017 USDS Human Rights Report does not report any major crimes against human rights, but there have certainly been unlawful activities, especially among government officials. The report notes that the “allegations of unlawful killings by security officers” and government officials being involved in human trafficking and child labor scandals.
  3.  Although actions have been taken against officials who have been accused of committing human rights violations, few prosecutions have succeeded. While a small number of lower-ranking officials have faced appropriate punishment, even fewer higher-ranking officials have seen repercussions for abuses committed.
  4. The most common complaint reported is police abuse. There have been 59 formal complaints of police brutality recorded as of October 2017. Only 44 of the 59 offenders have been placed on interdiction or suspension. Security forces have been accused of brutality and corruption, but the government fails to properly penalize the offenders.
  5. There has been an increase in complaints against The Immigration and Nationality Department. Investigations into these complaints and cases of corruption continue to uncover suspicious activities of high-ranking officials and other authorities; although, no prosecutions have been made.
  6. Prison and detention center conditions received no complaints this time around. There are also no reports on abuse of power. The prison allows visits made by independent human rights observers and, although the prison system seems transparent enough, the process of arrest, detention and trial suffers from delays due to a backlog of cases.
  7. The Santa Clara Law’s International Human Rights Clinic submitted a brief in June on behalf of a community near the Macal River suffering from the large development project of the Chalillo Dam constructed in 2005. The information brings to light the human rights obligations of relevant authorities to protect its citizens as well as the legal issues the company could face regarding environmental damage. The clinic aims to support petitioner affected by these actions as well as get the Commission to write clear language on obligations regarding economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights.
  8. Because Belize possesses a low rate on the U.S. State Department’s 2017 Human Trafficking Report, the U.S. banned the issuing of temporary work visas to Belize in January 2018. A few agencies have been assisting Belize to eradicate the issue. For instance, the U.S Embassy in Belize provides training on Forensic Interviewing Techniques for Victims of Human Trafficking to Belize government officials.
  9. Belize has been included in different organizations considering the state of human rights all around the world. The Organization of American States celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, inviting the ECADE, The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, to help develop the language of human rights, especially in the LGBTQ communities.
  10. Labor markets no longer suffer from outright forced labor but from subtler violations of acceptable conditions of work. A nongovernmental organization reported instances of different employers who violated wage agreements and purposefully misclassified employees to avoid paying benefits. 

The fight for human rights is essential to nurturing the conditions for a world free of poverty, as these top ten facts about human rights in Belize indicate. As Belize continues to progress in developing its language, attitudes and policies regarding human rights, its citizen should begin to see a safer and higher quality of life.

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

facts about poverty in Belize

Belize is a Central American country located along the Caribbean Sea with a 2017 population of over 360,000 people. It became an independent nation in 1981, and tourism has become one of the biggest drivers of the economy.

Belize has suffered major challenges that have had a detrimental impact on the country and its people. These challenges include a high public debt and the effects of environmental disasters like hurricanes. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Belize.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Belize

  1. Belize is considered an upper-middle-income country with a GDP per capita of $4,806.50. Despite this, a 2009 study revealed that 41.3 percent of the population of Belize lives at or below the poverty line. The main at-risk group in Belize is the children. In 2016, 49 percent of the children in Belize lived in poverty. These children lack access to basic needs such as healthcare and are vulnerable to exploitation.
  2. Different ethnic groups in the country struggle more with poverty than others. In the study recorded in 2009, the results concluded that the poverty rate for the indigenous Maya population was 68 percent, significantly higher than the countrywide average of the time. This represents a disparity in the income levels of different ethnic groups.
  3. Malnutrition is a severe problem in Belize. In 2015, a study showed that over 16 percent of children under the age of five suffered from stunting caused by malnutrition. Approximately five percent of children under the age of five were underweight. That year, less than half of children between the ages of six months old and two years old received adequate nutrition and meal frequency the day before the study.
  4. People are unable to receive access to necessary health care. The Health Care Access and Quality index shows that Belize rates 55.7 out of 100 for access to and quality of health care. Another issue is the significant portion spent by households on health care; over 23 percent of healthcare spending came out of pocket in 2015. However, government spending is expected to increase in the coming years, which will begin reducing the proportion of healthcare spending paid directly by the people.
  5. The unemployment rate in Belize is currently at nine percent of the labor force. Despite an increase in the quantity of jobs in the labor force due to the growth in the population, job opportunities have not increased in Belize at the same rate. Compounding with this problem, a majority of unemployed workers in Belize remain unemployed for six months or more.
  6. In 2015, just over 87 percent of the population had access to the basic sanitation facilities. Though many people still live without adequate sanitation, the availability of sanitation services has been slowly but steadily increasing, rising from a level below 83 percent in 2000. In 2015, 90.5 percent of the people received better access to sanitation, indicating that the trend of improvement will continue.
  7. Agriculture is the second most significant industry in Belize’s economy, and is particularly vulnerable to the environmental dangers presented by the climate in the country. When the agriculture industry suffers it has an impact on the availability of affordable food and on the lives of people, especially in rural areas. Approximately 40 percent of the most disadvantaged of Belize’s population live in rural areas that depend on the agriculture industry.
  8. Belize has among one of the highest crime rates in the world. In 2017, there were more than 90 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Other significant crimes that have become prominent are the drug trade and human trafficking. Young people living in poverty are vulnerable to gang involvement (responsible for a significant portion of violence), and to exploitation ( such as in prostitution).
  9. Educational attainment is low, with an average of 8.1 years of education in 2016. A year before, a study showed that the primary school completion rate was just below 87 percent of children. However, school enrollment has also continued to improve, with a seven percent jump in secondary school attendance between 2014 and 2016. The government of Belize plans to continue pushing for education with methods such as funding new institutions in lower income areas.
  10. In 2016, a four-year Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy for Belize was established. It contains a plan for the key areas that will be the focus for change and new policy in Belize, with priorities that include the development of disaster relief and improvements in education. Several projects now underway in the country work toward goals such as financing a strategy to promote growth and providing funding for disease treatment.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Belize show that there are significant obstacles to improving the state of poverty in the country. However, they also show that many improvements are currently happening that will contribute to helping those in need in Belize. Development is not only achievable, but it occurs at this very moment.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Belize
In Belize, the gender gap between men and women has been prevalent and consistent. However, in 1990, a bill was signed into law prohibiting discrimination against women based on their gender. Since then, the country has promoted women’s rights and has specifically focused on girls’ education. There are three major ways the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee has promoted a better life and has improved girls’ education in Belize.

Increased Literacy a Result of Girls’ Education in Belize

More young women are literate than ever before, leading to a more balanced workforce. Literacy, a strong indicator of equality, has increased in younger women. When literacy increases, nationwide productivity is enhanced and the reduced gender imbalance allows for a more equitable work environment between the sexes. As such, women are being given a chance to obtain degrees and higher positions in the workforce.

Not only is it statistically proven that a nation’s economy benefits from girls’ education, the social impact of girls’ education in Belize allows for cohesive collaboration for well-being in Belize. A country such as Belize that is working towards progressive goals can only benefit from closing the gender gap between those in the workforce.

While the gender gap is not wholly solved by the presence of more young girls in school, there is a significant increase in women both in post-secondary education and in the workforce. There are discrepancies in pay, but the step of promoting literacy to young girls is an important step in building a stronger Belize.

Women Gaining Access to More Diverse Career Options

The more women there are attending schools, the more the gender-career divide disappears. Without initial education, there would not be a basis upon which to form the beginnings of a woman’s career. Historically, the church-state setup of the Belizean government has promoted that women, specifically women who do not conform to the ideal standards set by the church, should remain at home and fulfill tasks for the family rather than for the economy.

While there is no shame in a woman being at home for her family, the promotion of girls’ education in Belize is making that scenario just one option of many for women. In addition to the classic educational materials, women are now being given the option to study for previously male-dominated careers via hands-on skills in carpentry, mechanics and other areas. By addressing the traditions of separating men and women into categories of whom should perform what action in society, Belize is well on the way to developing a strong nation with a multifaceted and talented workforce.

Emphasis on Women’s Equality Reduces Domestic Violence

A focus on education promotes health and independence, which are important for a developing country. Historically, there has been a connection between women with lower education levels and higher levels of domestic violence experienced by those women. In promoting gender equality in schools for girls between ages three and five, a sense of pride, autonomy and strength develops.

In providing an alternative to learning domestic tasks, the Belizean government may begin to reduce the pressing issue of domestic violence. The efforts being made in Belize show that there will likely be more progress in a country that needs both men and women to contribute to its economic growth.

– Kayleigh Mattoon
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in BelizeCountries around the world celebrate March as International Women’s Month, and Belize is no different. On March 16, 2018, the country hosted its annual 20,000 Strong rally for women’s rights in Belize. Women traveled from all over the country to Belize City to add their voices to the thousands of empowered women making a statement about gender equality. Wearing orange and supporting the businesses of other women, attendees made a public statement that they refuse to live in fear.

The 20,000 Strong Rally

The 20,000 Strong march began in 2014, boasting the slogan “Imagine a Belize Without Women.” Women were encouraged to take the day off from work in order to demonstrate how Belize is dependent on its women. Attendees were asked to wear orange clothes to show support for the UNITE Campaign, a U.N. campaign focused on ending violence against women around the globe.

The National Women’s Commission planned the event and executed it with the help of several other government departments. Speakers came to empower the women in attendance and encourage conversations about solutions for gender-based violence and women’s rights in Belize.

Initiatives like the 20,000 Strong march are critical for ending violence against women in Belize. The country has historically been a dangerous place for women to live. Abuse, rape and trafficking are real threats to women and children in Belize. While the 20,000 Strong march has always had special significance for women’s rights in Belize, the 2018 march could not have come at a more appropriate time.

Coming Together for Justice

On March 1, Belizeans awoke to the news that a 17-month old had been violently raped by her stepfather. She died on March 4, and Belize took to the streets on March 5 to call for justice. Belizeans gathered outside the courthouse in Belize City during the stepfather’s trial, demanding that justice be served and action be taken to protect children from heinous abuse.

The horrifying events of the month added fuel to the flame of the 20,000. On March 16, thousands of children joined the marchers, adding their voices to the conversation about women’s rights and violence against women. The coast guard, the Belize Defense force, the police and the First Lady of Belize joined the march, a crucial demonstration of the government’s support of women’s rights in Belize. Along with hosting speakers, some of whom are in high school, the event also supported Belizean small businesses operated by women.

The State of Women’s Rights in Belize

Women’s rights have been a point of concern for Belize. While rape is illegal, the justice system rarely convicts rapists, typically because the accuser cannot testify for fear of physical retaliation. Domestic violence records contain similar patterns. Belize has laws designed to combat sexual harassment, but they are not incredibly effective in practice. Employers are also mandated to pay men and women the same, but the pay gap and unemployment gap remains substantial. Furthermore, female representation in the government is low, with only 3 percent of Parliament members being women.

Female empowerment initiatives speak strongly to the direction Belize is headed. These women (and men!) are coming together and brainstorming ways to inspire change. With the support of the government, legislation is sure to follow that will improve conditions for women. The high attendance from schoolchildren also provides substantial hope for the future. More than 50 percent of Belizeans are under the age of 25, so they will set the direction for the country in the next few decades. With empowered women and children, Belize can look forward to better equality in the future.

– Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

healthcare in BelizeBelize is one of the seven nations located in Central America and has the lowest population density of any country in the region, numbering approximately 380,848 in 2018. In recent years, the government has decided to prioritize healthcare in Belize. In order to do so, a plan has been put into action to help in this endeavor.

In April of 2014, the Ministry of Health in Belize released the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan for 2014-2024. This was done in part to show the commitment that the government has made to improve the health and livelihood of its citizens, as well as to create clear milestones for the government to reach in its pursuit to have a healthier Belize in the future. In this plan, the government identified the six pillars required to improve healthcare in Belize: governance and leadership, service delivery, financing, human resource in health, health information systems and medicines and technology.

Some main areas of focus are maternal health, child mortality rates and infant mortality rates in Belize. Belize has been working to improve the health of women and children and had already been providing mobile and community clinics that treat the leading causes of mortality in women even before the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan was developed.

These efforts were reflected in the data presented in the plan, which shows that between 2003 and 2012 the child mortality rate dropped from 21 deaths per 1,000 live births to 18.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. During this same time frame, the maternal mortality rate dropped from 82 deaths per 1,000 live births to 41.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Though these are significant decreases in both child and maternal mortality rates, the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan has a proposed target of 10 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

In order to reach this new goal, the government of Belize has been making infrastructural advancements to its health sector. One example of this is the opening of the Chunox Polyclinic. The official inauguration ceremony for the polyclinic was held on February 16, 2018, and it is hoped that the opening of this clinic will help to reduce the maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates in Chunox, Progreso, Sarteneja, Copper Bank, Little Belize, Fire Burn and Newland and other surrounding communities.

Some of the other advances that the government hopes will come from the opening of the Chunox Polyclinic include a reduction in water-borne, food-borne and vector-borne diseases, as well as communicable and non-communicable diseases. The clinic cost an estimated $979,219 and was funded in part by a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank, with the rest of the funding provided by the government of Belize.

This increased effort from the government of Belize to improve the health of both women and children is just one way in which the nation is attempting to improve its health sector overall. With the continued efforts of the government to meet the milestones that it has set for itself in the Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan, continued improvements for healthcare in Belize can be expected.

– Nicole C. Stout

Photo: Flickr

education in belizeIn developing countries, education is the most important sector for governments to direct resources to. In Belize, a Central American country south of Mexico, the education system has major ties to the British system. Belizeans lived under British rule until 1981, and as a result, the country often uses Britain as a model. Quality education in Belize is particularly important considering that almost two-thirds of Belizeans are under the age of 20, so the future of Belize rests on the shoulders of the young.

The education system in Belize can be divided into three parts: primary education, secondary education and tertiary education. Primary education is mandatory for children until they turn 14, and is free if the school is public. Parents face the possibility of fines if they do not send their child to primary school, but these fines are comparable to the fees associated with the “free” education. Some public schools are in bad neighborhoods and many parents cannot afford to buy their children uniforms or books, so a number of children still leave school to work before the age of 14. Secondary school takes about four years to complete on average and is similar to an American high school education. Universities comprise tertiary school.

While most young children are enrolled in primary school, many question the quality of education in Belize. Teachers are paid very little, and many of them are inadequately trained. In Belize, there is no official separation of church and state, so Christian churches have the largest influence on education in Belize. This results in uneven quality among educational facilities, as more money is poured into schools run by the Roman Catholic Church.

While the lack of a divide between church and state widens the gap between good schools and poor schools, the church has contributed a lot to improve education in Belize. A prime example of this trend can be observed at Unity Presbyterian School in Belize City.

This author had the opportunity to visit Belize City and converse with Pastor Ernest Betson, an ordained Creole minister. Betson founded a church in one of the poorest areas in Belize City in 2006, along with his wife Carolyn. They saw the lack of educational opportunities for children in the area and decided to build a school alongside the church in 2007.  At first, the school only offered preschool programs, but today it accommodates children through grade six.

With the help of the organizations Help Another National Develop Schools and Mission to the World, the school has improved immensely, and each year it educates hundreds of children who would otherwise not be in school. Unity Presbyterian School has a large playground, a computer lab and music programs, as well as classes for basic subjects. In an area affected by human trafficking and gang violence, the school has brought a lot of hope to the young people in the area. Unity Presbyterian School is particularly inspiring in that it serves as an excellent example of Belizeans helping improve the lives of other Belizeans with the help of foreign aid but not dependent on foreign intervention.

While there are still many obstacles for impoverished children seeking education in Belize, there are many organizations, religious and non-religious, seeking to bridge the gap. With people like Pastor Betson spearheading the campaign for better education in Belize, the country can expect to see more improvements in future years.

– Julia McCartney

BelizeHistorically, U.S. foreign aid has always been a topic of discussion. The decision to help other countries in times of need incites a lively debate, and that has yet to change. These debates include Belize, a country that greatly benefits from U.S. aid, but the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Belize as well.

 

Security

The U.S. government helps Belize fight organized crime and drug trafficking while regulating the number of migrant workers coming into America. The U.S. has helped strengthen the police force in Belize as well as improve the capacity to secure its borders. It has also helped improve citizen security and Belize’s ability to confront and disrupt criminal organizations that run rampant throughout the country. This is all in the effort to strengthen Belize as a country which will be beneficial to the U.S. in the long run.

 

Immigration and Tourism

The U.S. and Belize have always been very close as the U.S. houses the largest number of Belize nationals outside of the country itself. This is partly because of migrant workers that come to the country from Belize. The U.S. is a major source of investment funds and is the principal trading partner for Belize.  The U.S. also helps to promote tourism in Belize. The tourism often results in Americans retiring and moving to Belize permanently. This helps increase the revenue within the country, promoting economic growth while also exposing Belizean culture to Americans that had never experienced it before.

 

International Relations

Giving help to Belize depicts U.S. diplomacy and also helps with relations among all Latin American countries. The U.S. has operations in over 100 companies located in Belize which helps the Belizean economy while simultaneously assisting corporations in the U.S. All the while, these efforts increase international relations and positive American diplomacy.

These are just a few ways that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Belize, and as the relationship between the two countries continues to grow, more benefits will become apparent.

Belize has benefited substantially from America aid which has allowed an increase in economic status with attempts to end organized crime and illicit drug trafficking. U.S. foreign aid helped Belize improve the inner-workings of the country as well as citizen relations. Foreign aid has had a positive effect on Belize as a whole, and this is a trend that seems to be continuing as long as the U.S. is there to offer foreign aid to the country when it needs it.

– Simone Williams

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in BelizeAbout 50 percent of the land and water that comprises Belize is protected on some level. However, this protected land houses some of the Mayan and Garinigu villages. These villages are known for ancient agriculture practices that have long resulted in effective and productive farming. These practices are mimicked elsewhere to develop sustainable agriculture in Belize.

With practices used for over two thousand years, known as Milpa, the villages perform a control burn to restore soil and replenish carbon. Short term annuals are planted to fill the open space as plantains, avocados, fruits, fiber plants, leguminous trees and cocoa are planted and set to grow. After five to eight years, when the canopy closes, annuals are replaced with vanilla, coffee, ginger, allspice and other understory plants. This cycle of burning and planting continues every 15 to 30 years.

This ancient practice is different than the current “slash and burn” method that only plants the highest paying crops, such as corn and rice, and negates the need for crops as “nitrogen fixers” and wildlife habitats. This form also plants in steep terrain without swales or terrace, increasing the likeliness of soil erosion. This slash and burn method undermines the soil and potential future agriculture growth.

Governments and organizations are working to educate and remove this irresponsible practice and replace it with other forms of sustainable agriculture in Belize. Projects Abroad works in Belize on tropical agroforestry and sustainable farming, allowing for individuals to work on the processing of cacao and developing agroforestry systems that mimic the rainforest that originally grew in Belize.

Sustainable Harvest International-Belize (SHIB) delivers a five-year extensive training program that teaches impoverished families how to farm with sustainable practices while also providing for their families. This program works on family nutrition, sustainable and holistic farming, promoting soil conservation through the reduction of external additives and crop diversification. These methods tie into strategies that the Horizon 2030 development plan uses to promote sustainable agriculture in Belize.

The U.N. reported that the Horizon 2030 development strategy is progressing agriculture practices by teaching sustainable farming in schools, increasing finances for farmers with low-interest loans, developing agricultural insurance for crop losses, supporting communal farming operations and increasing investments in technology regarding irrigation, seeds and green pesticides. These are a few of the goals implemented to reach more sustainable farming practices in Belize.

Through these efforts, Belize could experience a shift from farming that is detrimental to the environment to sustainable agriculture that will bolster the economy and livelihoods of the people of Belize.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr