Development and Sustainable Agriculture in Central America: a Case Study of Belize

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Development and Sustainable Agriculture in Central America:
A Case Study of Belize

ABSTRACT
This paper examines a sample of the numerous obstacles that affect and inhibit economic, social, environmental, and agricultural development within the Central American country of Belize. After surveying a number of these influences, agricultural development (as it relates to overall development) will be explored in depth, with special attention given to environmentally safe agrarian practices and to organizations that aid Belize and other Central American countries in developing sustainably.

Development and Sustainable Agriculture in Central America:
A Case Study of Belize
Belize, a country situated between Mexico and Guatemala on the Caribbean side of Central America, boasts rich natural resources and is home to a unique and diverse cultural environment. Although much of the region has been prone to political instability and internal conflict, the small country of Belize has been a relatively stable and prosperous nation. However, economic and social inequalities (vestiges of the country’s colonial heritage), disparities of the resources available to rural and urban areas, and problems in education, infrastructure, and communication hinder the state’s development. A growing interest among Belizean farmers in healthier and more efficient agriculture is leading to the intervention of international non-profit organizations, which aim to promote sustainable farming methods. The improvement of agrarian practices has the potential confront and overcome many of the obstructions to development that Belize and other Central American countries face today. A summary of development in Belize

Like many countries in the region, the notion of underdevelopment characterizes Belize, thanks in part to the legacy of British colonialism. Today, lingering effects of colonial practices are “manifested . . . in high rates of poverty, increasing foreign debt, and decreased food-self sufficiency” (Babcock and Conway 2000:73). Belize, known as British Honduras from 1864 to 1964, was originally established as an export only region. The British crown did not establish a stable economy during colonial times; rather, Belize “was predicated on the extraction of forestry products using slave and indentured labor under the control of a European minority” (Babcock and Conway 2000:73). This system of export oriented, exploitative control remained in place “through the 1940s, and economic diversification did not occur until the post-war period of the 1950s” (Babcock and Conway 2000:73). Until the 1980s, Belize remained a subservient and inconsequential country in the eyes of the rest of the world; only later did the idea of export diversification come into play. It was not until 1981 that a series of territorial disputes between the United Kingdom and Guatemala were settled, resulting in Belize’s full independence from the traditionally oppressive, British system of governance. Currently, given a strictly economic and numerical assessment of development, Belize falls in the middle-percentile of all countries in the world. It is ranked below Costa Rica and Panama, but remains the third most developed country of this region. As such, it is one of the more developed countries for the area and better models the transition to an urban, service-based industry (Human Development Reports 2009).

During the 1950s, the British-supported logging industry ended prematurely due to poor forest management and caused the country to switch to other industries (Peedle centers around “only a few primary exports (sugar, citrus, bananas), a small number of trading partners, and imported consumer goods” (Babcock and Conway 2000:73). Consequently, the country finds itself in a perpetual cycle of “vulnerability and dependency” (Babcock and Conway 2000:73). The introduction of Belize into the global market dominated by the Global North has helped the country...
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