San Luis, Patchakan & Chunox
About the project:
The majority of the world’s farms use synthetic and dangerous products, which threaten the health of humans and the environment. In northern Belize, agrochemicals are used extensively in sugarcane production, the industry that dominates the local economy and landscape. In the region, sugarcane production, conventional farming, and cattle production have had significant negative repercussions for the environment, including deforestation, soil degradation, and water contamination. Since 2017, Sustainable Harvest International (SHI)-Belize has partnered with 90 rural families from the communities of Chunox, San Luis, and Patchakan to lead restoration in the region and address this issue. By training farmers in regenerative agricultural techniques, SHI-Belize is working to restore the environment while improving families’ health and livelihoods.
With the technical support of SHI-Belize, partner families lead the project by implementing agroforestry systems on their land. These systems intercrop hardwood trees and subsistence crops without the use of agrochemicals and toxic products. Among the many benefits of agroforestry systems are their ability to improve microbial activity in soils and enhance fertility, which in turn increases crop yields and food production. Throughout the project, SHI field trainers support farmers with technical assistance on a wide range of topics including soil restoration, pest and disease management, nutrition, income generation, and environmental responsibility. Through agroforestry, partnering farmers produce healthier crops, free of agrochemicals, that improve their family’s diet and increase their income. They are reforesting their land by growing hardwood trees that will directly benefit future generations. Meanwhile, they are growing community awareness of the benefits of agroforestry systems by sharing their knowledge and skills with neighbors and other farmers.
The SHI-Belize restoration project consists of a total of 68 agroforestry systems across three communities. By diversifying crops, farmers are able to maximize productivity and efficiency on their land. Across all 68 agroforestry systems, SHI-Belize has planted 4 species of hardwood trees (Mahogany, Cedar, Ziricote, and Neem), 6 species of perennial fruits (soursop, coconut, pineapple, plantain, banana, and apple banana), 3 species of root tubers (jicama, cassava, and cocoyam), and 1 species of spice (Annatto). All told, farmers working with SHI-Belize have planted 1,590 hardwood trees, 12,210 perennial fruits, 5,580 root tubers, and 175 spice plants. SHI-Belize estimates that in their very first year of production, hardwood trees will generate $795,000 in additional income for farmers, perennial fruits will generate $255,130, root tubers will generate $25,110, and spices will generate $10,500, creating nearly $1.1 million dollars of additional income for the 90 families. Many of these plants will continue to produce long after their first year of production. When taking into account the entire productive life cycle of each crop, the total value of the restoration project increases significantly. For example, perennial fruits will produce an estimated $2,038,720 over a ten-year period while spices will produce $105,000 over the same period.
The SHI-Belize agroforestry project demonstrates that farmers can radically improve their livelihoods while restoring their local environment. These farmers are reforesting the land and helping mitigate climate change, all while earning income to improve their well-being. In fact, SHI-Belize estimates that the project will put a grand total of $2,963,830 in partnering farmers’ pockets.
SHI-Belize intends to replicate this restoration project, expanding into other communities to restore land, increase carbon sequestration and crop production, while creating economic opportunities for families that support and promote healthy, thriving, and biodiverse ecosystems.