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

B Corp Certification for Socially-Responsible BusinessesAs Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) grows, wouldn’t it be great if consumers could have clear indicators of which companies and products were part of this beneficial social movement? There is – B Corp Certification.  A concept introduced five years ago, B Corp is “like the Fair Trade label but for a whole company, not just a bag of coffee,” said co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert.

The organization certifies companies once they have met standards of social and environmental performance and have changed their bylaws to take into account the impact of their decisions on the environment, community, and employees. “Increasingly there are businesses that want to create value for all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders,” said Andrew Kassoy, another of B Corp’s founders. “These companies are competing not just to be the best in the world, but best for the world.”

About 650 companies have embraced the status so far, including Patagonia, Etsy, and most recently Ben & Jerry’s, one of the original socially driven companies (now owned by Unilever). Mr. Kassoy called Ben & Jerry’s news a “big deal,” and hoped Unilever’s decision to pursue B Corp certification would “influence other multinationals” to do the same.

David Griswold, the founder of Sustainable Harvest, a Portland-based coffee importer, knew from the beginning that he wanted to start a project to help others. But he also saw challenges to the success of starting a non-profit – not being able to “reach scale.” They needed significant investment from the beginning to accomplish their mission, and they needed money to grow. “It was only when my company grew, and I began to reinvest my earnings in coffee communities abroad, that I saw I could really make a difference.” He said he felt that a for-profit business would work best for his goals.

B Corp certification helps with giving “legitimacy” to for-profit businesses that want to prove their moral sincerity, especially when trying to partner with non-profit foundations to increase their community development.  It also helps explain to investors why they operate as they do to secure more capital, and allows consumers to make educated buying choices.

Devin Hibbard, a B Corp supporter and owner of Beads For Life – a non-profit that operates “very much” like a business, says, in the end “it’s all about poverty eradication” through commerce.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The New York Times
Video: You Tube