A Bird-Friendly Chocolate Forest in the Making
The Belize Cacao-based Agroforestry Restoration Program (BCARP) has made great strides in the past couple of months. On August 12, 2013, BFREE provided a half-day forest/farm preparation workshop as part of the continued agroforestry training for farmers participating in the project. This workshop, organized by Jacob Marlin and William Garcia of BFREE, was presented by Christopher Nesbitt of Maya Mountain Research Farm. Seventeen farmers and day laborers participated. The training focused on preparing forested and farm areas in the Trio agricultural area adjacent to BFREE property, for planting cacao saplings, identifying beneficial canopy species in the existing plots, and recommending canopy species for inter-planting. Smaller fruiting species were recommended to provide both short-term yield and soil supplementation over the next five years while the cacao trees mature. Larger timber species were recommended to provide more substantial shade and to offer the long-term benefit of financial return in twenty to twenty-five years. It is our hope that by encouraging a variety of species in the forested farm areas the farmers will have a diversity of goods to offer and will extend their growing season while also providing habitat to a diversity of wildlife, including migratory birds that spend the summers in the USA.
Project coordinator, William Garcia, managed the five days of farm preparation and planting that followed. A total of 10,000 cacao saplings were planted on 26 acres across the three participating farms. Thanks to the BCARP farmers who have dedicated their land, time and energy to this project: Maria Antonia Perez, Anecleto Garcia, Adelso Garcia and their families. Their patience, hard work and dedication have allowed the project to take shape and we look forward to continued partnership with them and additional farmers in the coming years.
BFREE has become aware since the project’s inception in late 2012, and particularly over the past couple of months, that many farmers are very interested in producing organic shade-grown cacao in their farms, and have recognized this as a new and innovative type of farming practice that will benefit not only their economic status, but will also create a healthier environment to live. BFREE is proud to play a role in helping Belizeans become better stewards of their land.
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