By Khaila Gentle
BELMOPAN, Sun. May 22, 2022
At this past Friday’s meeting of the Senate, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development – Climate Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture Project Loan Motion was one of the few issues up for debate. Through the motion, which was presented by the Leader of Government Business, Senator Eamon Courtenay, the Government of Belize seeks to borrow a total of US $25 million dollars to help local farmers in implementing climate resilient and sustainable agriculture practices.
While several senators, including NGO senator Janelle Chanona, rose to support the motion, UDP senator Michael Peyrefitte raised several questions regarding the lack of clarity about how the funds would be used. The Opposition senator said that he would not argue against assistance to farmers but questioned how exactly the financial assistance expected to be provided through the loan would be spent and distributed.
“Funding for support to agricultural producers with an emphasis on individual smallholder farmers who are transitioning to more commercial production. What are you talking about? Funding how? What’s the criteria for this funding? How do you determine who gets the funding? Who decides who gets the funding? Is there a panel? Is there a board? Is it decided by the Ministry of Finance? None of those details we don’t know,” stated Senator Peyrefitte, who also expressed his belief that farmers will get nothing out of the loan.
According to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the aim of the Climate Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture Project is to increase agricultural productivity and the adoption of climate-smart agricultural approaches as well as to enable an effective response by beneficiaries to crises or emergency events.
While the loan motion reached the Upper House on Friday, the US $25 million financing has been approved by the World Bank since early March of this year.
“The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved financing of US$25 million for the Belize Climate Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture Project, which will aim to increase food production capacity and the adoption of climate-smart agricultural approaches among project beneficiaries,” wrote the World Bank.
It also added that the project is supposed to provide over 7,000 farmers with weather data and technical information to help improve yields for crops and livestock and facilitate better planning as well as provide over 3,700 small farmers with grants.