BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 13, 2012
On this wonderful day, the 43rd birthday of Amandala, let us consider a favorite phrase of political pundits and economic experts – “growing the economy.”
I am neither a politician nor an economics expert, not by a long shot. I was once a fisherman, and then a shrimp farmer. Back in the early eighties, some of the fisheries experts wondered, and doubted, if fishermen, who lived in the “hunter and gatherer” sphere of life, could be adapted to the farmer mentality, to possibly become fish and shrimp farmers. I told those who I knew, yes, because modern fishermen are accustomed to the idea of setting traps, and letting them work before they are periodically harvested, the same way a farmer plants his crops and watches them grow until harvest time. Both the land and the traps need attention and servicing, to allow the best results from nature taking its course.
If our government is serious about “growing the economy,” one practical step would be to “put down its foot,” in the form of the Department of the Environment, by telling the would-be investors at the old Nova site in Ladyville that the area has been designated as one ideally suited for aquaculture. Environmentally, it has already been tested and proven that the environment was well maintained throughout the life of the shrimp farm; and fishing in the area was actually enhanced. The logical proof of the pudding was that, any degradation of the water quality because of the farm would have first and foremost affected the farm itself; so, maintaining good water quality was in the interest, indeed necessary for the survival of the farm.
As the farms still running in southern Belize can attest, aquaculture is sustainable, environmentally practical, and brings in foreign exchange, as well as provides large numbers of jobs, both skilled and unskilled. What better way to “grow the economy”?
But the alternative is to start another big housing project, along with hotels and casinos. What then? Is a retirement home for Asian millionaires a better way to “grow the economy” than having our Belizean people engaged in long term productive and dignified work, hand in hand with nature, to produce the wealth untold that this land is prepared to give us?
What a tremendous waste of resources it would be, to destroy what visionary pioneers and genuine investors have accomplished, in the designing and building of the once, and up to its very last year, highly productive Nova Shrimp Farm.
The destroying of the Nova shrimp ponds to build a housing project may seem like the sole prerogative of the “foreign investor.” It may now be “their land,” but this is still our country, our nation, and our economy that is desperately in need of “growing.” It is about time our government had a say in how many bars, night clubs and casinos we need.
Belizeans have to understand how productive God’s good earth is, on dry land and under water. In an empty shrimp pond, all you have to do is fill it with filtered sea water, release some tiny baby shrimp, and just let nature, in the form of sunlight and the natural algae that begins to grow in the pond, take its course, and in a few months there are close to two hundred pounds of shrimp for every acre of pond. What commercial shrimp farming does is apply feed, fertilizer and management strategies to multiply that natural productivity of the water to realize twelve to fifteen times the production level. So that, for example, from only one 23-acre pond (there were 93 ponds at Nova), after partial harvests through a seven or eight-month stretch, Nova could comfortably harvest over 60,000 pounds of whole shrimp.
Shrimp farming is very big in Asia also. In fact, much of the global price collapse which affected Nova and other shrimp farms in 2001 and for a while afterwards was due to the massive expansion of shrimp farming in China, where labor was exceedingly cheap. The technology is everywhere available.
Who in their right mind, who loves this country, would allow the destruction of such proven production potential to build houses and casinos?
On this day 43 years ago, young Ubaders took to the streets of Belize City, printed leaflets in hand, shouting, “Amandala!” Ubaders believed in the land as essential for realizing “freedom, justice and equality” for our people. Tourism is alright, but too much dependence on that could easily lead to “whorism.” And casinos are not what development is all about.
Let our leaders see the wisdom of marrying the people with the land to “grow the economy”; and let investors know what are our priorities in this blessed land. Amandala means power to the people. Happy birthday to the Cream!