the BSCFABelize’s sugar cane production has been a major staple to its economy since the 1800s. Today, it supports the livelihood of around 15% of Belizeans, contributes to 6% of Belize’s foreign exchange income and adds 30% gross value to the country’s agriculture. Due to its overall importance, organizations have taken great steps to help protect sugar farmers and improve their working conditions. A major step toward this goal was when the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) became Fairtrade certified in 2008. Since then, the value of sugar from Belize has grown and better working conditions and human rights have been established.

Sugar Cane Farmers in Belize

Sugar cane farmers and plantation workers often struggle because sugar prices in international markets are low and processing sugar cane is long and expensive. Smaller farms also have trouble getting access to lucrative markets that would buy more sugar. The compensation smallholder farmers receive for cane often fails to cover the costs they incur to produce it, leaving them in a debt trap and with little capital to reinvest in farms. They also cannot pay for newer equipment that would help make the process easier, faster and cheaper. The significant amount of time invested in farming to provide an income often leaves little time to engage in other opportunities that can pull them out of poverty, such as education. Fairtrade aims to alleviate these problems by helping people and organizations get better representation in the market and better prices for their crops.

The Impact of Fairtrade Certification

Since 2008, Belize’s sugar cane exports have increased greatly, particularly in the European market. In the first five years of the BSCFA becoming Fairtrade certified, Belize’s sugar cane gross profit grew significantly. Belize has also been able to increase the amount of sugar cane produced every year due to farmers getting resources to control pests in the early stages of the growing process and access to better farming and processing tools. From 2018 to 2019 alone, Belize went from producing 150,000 tons to more than one million tons of sugar cane.

Impact on Communities in Belize

A huge benefit of being Fairtrade certified is that organizations will receive premiums — extra money that farmers and workers can invest in their businesses or the community. The BSCFA gets around $3.5 million in premiums a year and has used that as grants for education, building and repairs, community spaces such as churches and libraries, funerals for impoverished families, water tank systems and more.

The BSCFA has continued advocacy and empowerment efforts to improve the working conditions of sugar cane farmers. In 2015, the BSCFA took a strong stance against child labor, lobbying the government to make laws against child labor and personally suspending support of farms that violated fairtrade practices.

Due to advocacy efforts such as these, the government of Belize has taken steps to stop child labor, such as working on bills that help others identify child labor situations and updating its Child Labor Policy to add additional protection for children. It also established a Child Labor Secretariat that works on identifying and reporting child labor cases.

Fairtrade and the BSCFA have made significant strides in protecting the rights of sugar cane farmers while expanding the economy. These efforts are lifting people out of poverty and ensuring that fairness prevails.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in Belize

Recent advancements in women’s empowerment in Belize have been made due to the implementation of multiple women’s rights policies. In 1990, Belize signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The National Women’s Commission (NWC) of Belize carries out programs in line with the CEDAW and the National Gender Policy, the primary policies shaping women’s rights in Belize. The current perspective of women’s empowerment in Belize has evolved immensely since 1990 due to the government’s efforts to address modern threats to women’s rights.

Gender roles for women in Belize are fairly stereotypical under the construction of the church-state system. In 1999, the U.N. recognized very strong “cultural traditions… (that) placed women in a subordinate position in Belize,” and continued by stating, “both men and women had to be involved in changing old cultural traditions.” Women’s empowerment in Belize is disrupted by the discrimination fostered by the influence of the church. Since the adoption of the CEDAW in 1990, Belize has made new legislation and amendments to combat discrimination against women.

In 2007, The Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee monitoring the effects of CEDAW saw that women in Belize suffer from “discriminatory hiring practices, limited maternal protection, dismissal due to pregnancy, sexual harassment and persistent pay inequality between women and men.” To address the discriminatory labor practices the Belize Labor act was amended in 2011 to penalize unfair dismissals and establish the Labor Complaints Tribunal.

While women now receive greater higher education degrees than men (a large advancement from 1990) the U.S. 2016 Belize Human Rights Report verifies “that men traditionally earn more–on average BZ$90 ($45) more– per month than women because they hold higher managerial positions.” Since the labor laws were amended, women’s unemployment has declined – nearly five percent from 2014 to 2015 – and the amount of women receiving degrees has increased. Women’s equality in labor and education in Belize requires additional attention but, with traceable achievements thus far, the country is moving in the right direction.

Domestic violence in Belize is grossly under-reported and prosecutions are low because individuals are reluctant to press charges against their offenders. The 2016 U.S. Human Rights Report published that “There were 15 cases of gender-based murder against women” that year. This violence is aggregated by the church-state relationship that perpetuates an outdated perspective on women’s rights. Belize revised the Domestic Violence Protocol for Police Officers in 2010 and works with shelters like the Haven house and Mary Open Doors to support threatened women and hopefully reduce the gender-based murders against women.

As a part of the U.N., Belize is positioned to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030 including SDG 5, to achieve gender equality. Perhaps one of the strongest symbols of the advancements Belize has made in women’s empowerment was the 2014 “20,000 STRONG” Women’s Empowerment Rally. The first of its kind, the rally had 12,000 men and women join together and march to show the influence and significance of women. The rally was held again in 2016, in collaboration with the NWC, where they announced the new 20-4-20 Women’s Economic Development Program.

As the U.N. established, women’s empowerment in Belize can only be accomplished with the combined efforts of men and women. The rallies in 2014 and 2016 have set the tone for a unified nation in support of gender equality. In partnership with governmental organizations and NGO’s and with the support of its citizens, Belize is on track to establishing gender equality by 2030.

– Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to BelizeLocated on the eastern coast of Central America, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the rainforest, Belize is a diverse and small nation of 366,000 people. The success of humanitarian aid to Belize has been evident.

Belize is subject to chronic instability, due to its vulnerability from climate shocks and a longstanding public debt burden. Policymakers have done much in undertaking adjustments to bring Belize back to a sustainable development trajectory. However, some are still at risk of getting left behind, like the country’s children, who are most vulnerable and affected by these challenges.

Despite these difficulties, Belize has made considerable advances in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015, performing satisfactorily in health-related investments and progressing on a positive track for child and maternal mortality rates, HIV/AIDS and the environment.

Much of the humanitarian aid to Belize comes from UNICEF, who has been committed to Belize dating back to 1954. UNICEF established an office in the country after Belize gained its independence in 1981. It provided aid in the form of environment health, vector control, school feeding and the provision of school textbooks and supplies. Currently, UNICEF is focused primarily on young child survival, education and development, disparity reduction through policy investment, participatory governance and the protection of children against violence.

Another form of successful humanitarian aid to Belize by UNICEF is their response to the Zika Virus outbreak in the region, providing fieldwork support and training at the national and local levels, with the Sustainable and Child Friendly Municipalities Initiative. So far, UNICEF has allocated over BZ$116,000 to Zika relief efforts.

UNICEF also provided humanitarian aid to Belize during the aftermath of Hurricane Earl, which struck Belize on August 4, 2016. They provided aid totaling over BZ$153,000 to help the most vulnerable families. This was done in partnership with the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, the Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development, city mayors, NEMO, Immigration and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The aid provided included the distribution of hygiene kits, the provision of support to shelters and the cleansing of debris and dissemination of emergency messages.

Similarly, Brazil donated provisions to Belize after it was hit by Hurricane Arthur in 2008, which was the worst tropical storm to affect the country in the past four decades. It provided 1,370 boxes of food, containing rice, beans, sugar, powdered milk, soy oil and ham in each box. Brazil also donated provisions valuing approximately $50,000 to assist the victims of Hurricane Dean in 2007.

With the success of humanitarian aid to Belize that has already been provided, the future of the country is looking brighter than ever. Still, there is a need for more aid that will improve the quality of life drastically in Belize.

Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Belize

In the country of Belize, there are about 366,000 citizens to take care of. These 366,000 individuals may be different from one another, but they are all entitled to basic rights. Human rights in Belize are not perfect, nor will they ever be, but are a work in progress as efforts are continuously being made to better them.

One major issue in Belize is police brutality. This past April, a video of an altercation between citizens and police in San Pedro Central Park went viral. While attempting to bring a woman to the police station, the police proceeded to kick her. They also fired gunshots, injuring five people. Although PC Norman Coye and PC Darnell Madrill of the San Pedro Police Department were charged for wounding others in the incident, the victim of the incident remains disappointed in how the situation is being handled. Since there were other officers involved, she finds it unfair that only two were reprimanded for their actions.

According to the U.S. 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, in 2015 there were 217 new complaints of police abuse. Despite that large increase, less than half of them were actually investigated.

With police brutality being a major concern in Belize, it is a priority to resolve it. One of the first steps in finding a solution is addressing the problem. Thankfully, public officials in Belize are doing so. The United Women’s Group criticized the police’s mishandling of the incident in San Pedro Central Park. Besides expressing disappointment in the way the Police Professional Standards Branch responded to it, they also urged the government to bring justice to the victims and properly punish the officers involved.

Besides the United Women’s Group, others are acknowledging police brutality in Belize. First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow also made a public statement in response to the same incident. She not only told the Belize Police Department to handle situations less violently, but also asked the Professional Standards Branch of the Department to thoroughly investigate the case.

A person of higher power has the ability to influence more people, since they have a larger following. By taking a public stance, different organizations and individuals are leading others to acknowledge the problem by doing so themselves. Human rights in Belize will continue to improve as more people take a stand against police brutality.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in BelizeBelize is a well-known destination for luxurious vacation getaways. While tourism has brought some wealth to the region, GDP growth has slowed over the past few years. Additionally, the impact of Hurricane Earl in August of 2016 has put stress on the country’s economy.

While the sunshine and snorkeling may seem alluring, there are a few health risks that the residents of this tropical region in Central America face.

Here are a few of the common diseases in Belize that affect its residents.

Hepatitis A and B

One common disease in the area is Hepatitis A. This disease can be contracted through food or water consumption. Additionally, this virus has a high chance of circulation in poor sanitary conditions.

The annual mortality rate per 100,000 people for Hepatitis A is approximately 0.1, according to a report by Health Grove. The report also stated that since 1990, this mortality rate has decreased by 68.6 percent.

Hepatitis B is also prevalent in Belize and can be transmitted through sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood products. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines are highly recommended if you are anticipating the need for surgery. Hepatitis B has approximately the same mortality rate at Hepatitis A in Belize.

Since 1990, the Hepatitis B’s mortality rate has decreased by 69.2 percent, according to the Health Grove report.


Belize is considered to be a low-risk country for malaria, though antimalarial medication is recommended for those more susceptible to contracting the disease, like women who are pregnant.

Belize is currently in the pre-elimination phase in order to control malaria in the region, according to a report from the Health Sector Strategic Plan. Between 2007, where there were 845 cases of malaria, and 2012, with only 37 cases, cases of malaria decreased by 95 percent in Belize. Other regions in Latin America have experienced a reduction in the number of cases of malaria over similar time spans.

The report also stated that even with limited resources and low per capita health expenditure, Belize has been able to make smart investments that have led to improvements in health services and the reduction of diseases like Malaria.


Tuberculosis is another one of the most common diseases in Belize. While the number of reported incidents of tuberculosis have remained consistent since 2010, mortality rates from tuberculosis have more than doubled since 1990. According to a report from the Health Sector Strategic Plan, this might be a reason for concern due to the productivity of the Directly Observed Treatment Scheme.

A report from the Commonwealth Health Online found that communicable diseases in Belize, meaning diseases that can be passed along through human interaction, made up 20 percent of the deaths that occurred in 2008, in addition to maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions.

Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases have seen a decline in recent years. According to a report from the World Health Organization, the success rate for new and relapse cases of tuberculosis registered in 2014 was 35 percent.  While this rate saw a decline in recent years, its prevalence has gradually started to increase.

According to a report from the World Bank, between the fiscal years of 2012 and 2015, the International Finance Corporation expanded its role as an advisory to Belize and as an investor. As the report stands, this will help Belize with things like health services.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Belize
Water quality is Belize? Even a tropical paradise can have challenges. Belize, located just south of Mexico, is home to almost 375,000 people. Unfortunately, about 41.3 percent of these people live below the poverty line. Poverty in Belize manifests as a result of several factors, including a lack of equal opportunities to receive an education and proper healthcare. For years, the government has put a focus on addressing the poor water quality in Belize.  This lack of access to clean water makes it difficult for families to rise above the poverty line.

As of 2008, almost everyone living in urban areas was able to access safe drinking water. However, only 86 percent of the population living in the countryside have access to a clean water source. In these areas, boiling water before using it is a necessity.

Belize has historically struggled with keeping their water sources clean. Between the months of July and December, floods and hurricanes can interfere with the disposable of human waste and redirect it into sources of drinking water. As a result, bacteria can spread diseases.

Water quality in Belize faces another roadblock due to the lack access to a sewage system. As of 2014, almost 90 percent of citizens reported not having a proper place to dispose of their liquid waste. Without a latrine, the disease can quickly spread in a community through the wastewater.

Many organizations are working hard to improve the water quality in Belize. In 2015, the government created the Belize River Valley rural water system with a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank. The CDB’s primary goal is to reduce the number of people living under the poverty line through improving conditions in developing communities. The Belize River Valley rural water system provided over 3,000 people with access to clean water.

The Belize Social Investment Fund also uses the water supply to change lives. By investing in providing a clean water supply to impoverished communities, the BSIF gives the population the tools to improve their quality of life.

Access to safe drinking water is crucial in the fight against poverty and work put into the water quality in NotBelize has and will continue to result in life-changing progress.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

Belize, located south of Mexico in Central America, was the center of the Mayan civilization thousands of years ago. Since then, Belize has developed into an independent, democratic country with English as its official language. The Belizean economy remains small, depending mainly on agriculture, merchandising and tourism. The sugar and banana industries make up two of the biggest sources of economic production. The developing nation has become an attractive travel destination for people around the world, but the rate of poverty in Belize remains very high.

As of September 2016, the rate of poverty in Belize stood at 41.3 percent, which meant that 380,010 people lived in conditions below the poverty line. People living in rural areas suffer more from poverty than those living in Belize City. This occurs because federal revenue is distributed to all the districts disproportionately.

When compared to other countries in the Caribbean, the rate of poverty in Belize ranks second-highest after Haiti. Reducing this statistic has proven to be a challenge for the Belizean government, as poverty in Belize often results from many factors, including lack of access to education, sanitary drinking water and medical attention.

While poverty in Belize cannot be eradicated overnight, the government of Belize has made significant steps in recent years. Belizean politicians have pursued legislation and programs to tackle the challenges faced by the people living below the poverty rate. The Belize Social Investment Fund, established in 1996, assists groups within communities in their efforts to help the poor.

The National Integrated Water Resources Act, approved by the government in 2010, will eventually result in access to clean water. When safe drinking water is brought in, communities see increased economic growth without fail, and Belize has been no exception.

Other pushes towards a decrease in poverty include the Quality School Initiative, resulting in increased school enrollment. Gender equality has also increased, with access to education, literacy rates and employment rates rising over the past 10 years. In 2015, the infant mortality rate had decreased by two-thirds. With increased efforts to attack the roots of poverty in Belize, the nation is sure to see a decrease in the poverty rate.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

On September 30, Foreign Minister Wilfred Erlington of Belize reprimanded developed countries for abandoning goal eight of the Millennium Development Goals– a global partnership for development. The Millennium Development Goals were agreed upon by world leaders at a UN Summit in 2000, aiming to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty through eight different steps by 2015. The United Nations and many developed countries have been criticized for their apparent slack in achievement.

“We note with disappointment, that the rich countries have not even been able to bring themselves to honor their commitment to contribute even the 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product as official domestic assistance to poor countries,” said Mr. Erlington.

In terms of other assistance, the resources being provided by the international community, other financial institutions and private donors are not nearly enough of what is needed by poor countries to attain the Millennium Development Goals. Now, 13 years later, only a minority of countries are proving successful in attaining the Goals. Unfortunately, the vast majority shows very few signs of development.

Pressure has continually been put on the developed countries to finally step up, once and for all, and put their best foot forward. The battle against global poverty cannot be fought without their leadership, and it is a constant source of frustration for many of the developing nations.

Alva Romanus Baptise, Minister of external fairs of Saint Lucia stressed that global interdependence demands that “the strong help the weak so that everyone gets strong.” Belize’s expression of this omnipresent issue serves as just one voice for the hundreds of abandoned nations.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: UN News Centre, Scoop
Photo: Caribbean 360

Belize has experienced a peaceful transition to a democratic government since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The country’s global comparative advantage is derived from its natural resources, which supports the tourism and agriculture sectors, as well as its close geographical proximity to major markets. Challenges like poverty in Belize are due to high vulnerability to external shocks, including natural hazards, impacts of climate change, and terms of trade. The government’s ability to face these challenges is limited due to high debt levels and limited fiscal space.

As a lower middle-income country, Belize experienced a slowdown in growth and an increase in poverty after the global economic crisis, which accompanied increases in the prices of food and fuel price in 2008.  The most recent Country Poverty Assessment indicates that between 2002 and 2009, the overall poverty rate increased from 34% to 41%, while extreme poverty increased from 11% to 16%. In 2010, the country resumed growth, with GDP growth reaching 2.9%. Although Belize’s economy has traditionally relied on agriculture, the services sector grew in importance during the 1990s. According to the World Bank, it is now the country’s largest contributor, accounting for 60% of GDP.

Data indicates that the overall economic growth experienced by the country might have failed to translate into an equal distribution of wealth and well-being. The Country Poverty Assessment states that, “inequality is therefore the manifestation of the central structural problem, which development policy in Belize must address”. The government of Belize continues to put the primary focus of its strategies on the fight against poverty.

Recently, the State Department through the U.S. Mission to Belize made plans to spend $500,000 to create jobs for youth and reduce poverty in Belize. The grant announcement said, “Marginalized youth are empowered when given a voice and opportunities. Equipping marginalized youth and their communities with economic opportunities and/or business training can help them reach their true potential as entrepreneurs and improve citizen security.”

The purpose of the grant proposal is to “confront the root causes of violence and crime in a creative and effective way and seek to create positive cultural and social conditions.” The U.S. Embassy may award up to 10 grants, which do not exceed a total of $500,000 USD. Eligible applicants are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profit organizations (NPOs), International Government Organizations (IGOs), educational institutions, and individuals.

– Ali Warlich

Sources: World Bank, CNS News,
Photo: WordPress

US Military Exercise to Aid Belize
A collaboration between the U.S. military and Belize will extend supplies and human capital to the country in a program called New Horizons 2013. The exercise will show the military’s capacity for nation-building efforts in construction as well as health care, with supplies slated to arrive in Belize this spring.

The program will run for 90 days and will include collaboration between medical personnel from both countries in providing care for the citizens of Belize. The U.S. and Belize are also working together on several construction assignments, including improving local school buildings. The military will use this exercise to aid Belize for valuable training in completing a deployment “from start to finish,” coordinator Chris Donovan said. Donovan also stated that these exercises provide experience for the military that can be used in a future “real-world humanitarian need or crisis-type situation.”

U.S. Air Force Captain Richard Hallon said that one of the most vital parts of the exercise is the training that military personnel receive from transporting the necessary supplies needed for the project. This builds personnel experience in preparing, storing, and transporting equipment and materials properly, which requires planning and collaborating with parties outside of the military and from within the participating states.

The New Horizons program is not new, having originated in the 1980s, and has since operated in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. This year, the military will work closely with the Belize Defence Force, who will receive, store, and guard the supplies until military personnel arrive in the spring to start the exercise. The U.S. is no stranger to the Belize Defence Force, having partnered with them often throughout the last 20 years on various emergency relief exercises and scenarios.

Christina Kindlon

Source: U.S. Dept. of State