Helping rural women in Belize grow sustainable, nutritious food and trading it sustainably is at the top of the agenda for Sazani’s work in the small Central American country.
Over the last 18 months, Sazani took an interest in the region to combat rural poverty and exclusion of women, marginalised within the economy.
Despite its attractions as a tourist centre; fruit, cocoa and sugar cane exports and a new oil operation, the small country is still struggling economically and more than one third of the population live below the poverty line.
And now Sazani, working alongside other local organisations, is supporting four Women’s groups across Belize as they establish their own enterprises to grow healthy, nutritious food that does not cost the earth.
Cayo West Women in Business, Benque Viejo del Carmen
Benque is the furthest west settlement of any size in Belize, very close to the border with Guatemala with which the country, formerly British Honduras, still has sovereignty issues.
Cayo West Women in Business is a local women’s group set up the town making traditional Viejo handicrafts and has now established its own ‘backyard gardening’ initiative. The group of 15 housewives meets every weekend to talk through their work, share information and look at new ideas.
Group members are growing organic vegetables in their own gardens with technical support from Sazani.
Produce includes tomatoes, sweet pepper, cilantro, jalapeño and other vegetables. There aim is to provide food for their families and also to sell their surplus in the local market. They have learned how to make compost and liquid fertilizer at training sessions and attended various lectures about the empowerment of women’s group and capacity building.
Now they are also trying to sell handicraft products such as baskets and handbags using natural seeds, wood and hand made artificial flowers, made with recycled materials, for local people and tourists.
Western Women Agri Processing Association, San Ignacio
In San Ignacio, WWAPA is now creating a new and profitable opportunity work during the day and produce unique preserves in their spare time.
Their jams and honey are made using locally harvested organic materials.
Local people usually have to buy imported produce at the local market because there are few Belize food processing companies or products. Hard earned cash that currently flows out of the country. The women appeared on the local news channel promoting the eating of healthy food produced without artificial preservatives and encouraging the use of local products for the growth of the country. They received great feedback from the viewers.
Sazani supports their marketing and advertising activities including design of marketing materials and providing technical advice. Now their products are on the shelves of local markets and becoming famous as the new “Proud Product of Belize”
Blackman Eddy Women’s Group, Blackman Eddy
Blackman Eddy village is at the middle of the Western Highway between San Ignacio to Belmopan, the capital of Belize. Blackman Eddy Women’s Group is raising pigs and chickens as well as growing food in backyard gardens.
Their pigs and chickens were provided for the children of group members by alocal organisation – “4-H” – which is supporting youth development in Belize country wide. Sazani provided materials for the housing and pens.
Sazani also helped with organic farming training sessions by experts from 4-H for their newly born piglets.
In May, they had a fund raising bicycle race and softball match which, together with food sales and raffles helped them make a small profit for the group which was shared by members to improve their pig/chicken pens and contribute to the school in their village.
Georgeville group, Georgeville
Following 3 women groups above, Sazani started to support one more group in this year 2012 – Georgeville Women’s Group.
They are newly formed group and mainly consist from single mothers who are expected to pay school expenses to send their kids for adequate education.
The members had raised animals before and much of the housing was still serviceable. Sazani provided animals, zinc for roof and chicken wire to rebuild the new pigs/chicken pens. Two of the ladies are now raising pigs and another four have begun chicken enterprises. And now their children are helping to clean the family pig pen and chicken cage, preventing spread of any diseases. Their daily duties are also good for discipline and creating a work ethic.
Sazani is planning to provide more technical assistance in the future to empower the ladies as an “organised group”. The aim is to keep member’s co-operation and encourage their effort to help them create a better life for all group members.
Joint meeting among the groups
A joint meeting of all four groups, organised by Sazani in August 2012 at Georgeville, gave members a chance to learn from each other. They shared information and found out more about what each of the groups is doing in its respective communities.
Each group gave a presentation about what they have achieved so far and explained their products.
There were two invited speakers from JICA who talked about a handicraft and “one village one product” project in Japan. Some groups sold their products as a sample and received good response from other group members. Sazani expects the meeting will inspire new ideas and different points view.
After the meeting, the ladies enjoyed refreshments and delicious “Cow Foot Soup” prepared by the members of Georgeville women group. This kind of event is to be held annually and is expected to attract many of the supported group members.