In May 2017, Humana People to People Belize along with Ministry of Agriculture and the country’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and the Caribbean Development Bank, who manage the Climate Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF), embarked on an innovative project to build adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change in Toledo.
The project is implemented over a 24 months period in 11 villages in Toledo District. The project will work with 180 farmers and indirectly benefit 8,000 persons in these 11 villages.
The project aims to improve the resilience of target communities through an approach that comprises improved physical infrastructure and early warning systems, public education and awareness building and the facilitation of improved agricultural farming systems that is more resilient to climate change impacts.
The International Federation Humana People to People, has vast experience in working together with farmers, especially in Southern Africa and has developed a FARMERS’ CLUBS model which in this project has been modified to fit to farmers situation and conditions in Belize. The FARMERS’ CLUBS model organizes farmers into groups who stick together and experience the power of being such a collective. Together the farmers will acquire new knowledge, understanding and take action.
The Toledo District is highly vulnerable to natural hazard and climate risks on account of its social, physical and environmental characteristics. Some of the underlying factors that contribute to the District’s vulnerability are poverty, instability of livelihoods, and limited disaster management capacity.
The 2010 Country Poverty Assessment Report for Belize notes that Toledo is the poorest district in the country with a rural poverty rate of 61% and factors contributing to this are its peripheral location relative to the rest of the country’s administrative, commercial and tourist centers. The prevalence of poverty in Toledo is also linked to low levels of educational attainment, poor infrastructure and low resilience capacity when compared with other regions in the country.
Over the years, the traditional systems of land tenure, the decline in the milpa farming system (low yields per unit area of land) and population increases, have all combined to severely undermine livelihoods and food security among the farmers in Toledo. This has been intensified by environmental degradation due to factors such as riverbank erosion, resulting from inappropriate agricultural practices; and more recently Climate Change and climate variability. In recent times, climate related events such as flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes and intense rainfall, warmer temperatures, periodic droughts, and bush fires have resulted in the destruction of crops and livestock; increase in soil erosion; increased prevalence of weeds, pests, and diseases; and reduced crop yields.
Overcoming these challenges requires a shift in current agricultural production systems to climate smart approaches through the integration of measures aimed at increasing resilience to the impacts of Climate Change and ultimately safeguard the lives of Toledo’s residents, during flood events and other natural hazards.
The Project Management Unit
The Project Management Unit has six qualified Belizeans recruited from within the project area in Toledo and the team thus have firsthand knowledge and understanding about peoples’ situations and struggles. Of the six, four are ‘Community Outreach Assistants’ and work each with three communities in building capacities and finding solutions shoulder to shoulder with the farmers and families. The Project Management Unit meets weekly to share experiences and best practices and to support each other on plans, challenges and achievement.
Disaster Risk Reduction and Early Warning Systems
It is critical for people’s survival that they are timely warned about approaching natural threats. Humana People to People Belize has together with community key people, various governments departments and Caribbean Development Bank identified areas to be improved through this project.
The project will rehabilitate two hurricane shelters, construct earthen drains in two communities, set up 2-way communication systems in five communities, equip and train twenty-two River Keepers so that they better can monitor rivers, install river gauges in four communities and rain gauges in two communities.
The project will, under this component, work in close collaboration with Ministry of Works, National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), and the National Meteorological Service of Belize.
Disaster Risk Reduction and Food Security using the Farmers’ Clubs Model
The FARMERS’ CLUBS model adapted for Belize organizes the farmers in groups of 20 that will be legally registered as a cooperative. The farmers club members will quickly experience how they are able to learn from each other and how they by standing together inspire and become inspired by their fellow farmers to embrace opportunities that improve their lives. The project will provide the farmers with the means to experiment with new techniques which will help to increase yields and income and thereby increase food security and reducing poverty.
The project will provide farmers with the necessary training to improve agricultural methods and offer opportunities to learn by experience; demonstration farms will be established and they will allow farmers to come together and use common land to try new crops and techniques and witness first-hand the productivity of new practices. Throughout the project, the traditional crops of corn and beans will be promoted, as the farmers and their families rely on both. Humana People to People Belize will work with farmers to improve their yields and the methods that will be used to improve corn and bean production include improved seeds, sustainable land clearing practices and intercropping corn with nitrogen rich plants/trees. Covered tunnels or greenhouses will also be introduced and used to produce vegetables. Along with production of vegetables comes training in health and nutrition. The Farmers Club will include other small-scale equipment such as a well, solar powered irrigation and a model for climate-safe animal sheds.
Each of the Farmers Club members will receive one metal silos for the household storage of corn or beans. These silos will improve food security. The farmers will also be trained to prevent loss of their crops along with pre- and post-harvest training. Farmers will also be trained in alternative agricultural income generation through an animal pass on loan system. Sheep, pigs, and chickens will be provided to each Farmers Club and the club members will be trained in how to care for the animals and ensure that they reproduce.
The project will, under this component, work in close collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture and CARDI.
Disaster Risk Reduction and Public Awareness
Education and public awareness can provide life-saving and life-sustaining information and skills that better protect people from disaster risks and empower them to respond to emergencies and contribute to mitigating disasters. The impacts of disasters can be substantially reduced if communities are well prepared and ready to act and are equipped with the knowledge and capacities for effective disaster management.
The project will, under this component, work in close corporation both with the National Emergency Management Organization and with Ministry of Education in several activities including surveys, cleanup campaigns, school debates, tree planting, disaster simulations, community meetings, house visits and community billboards.