When Plenty Belize officially launched in 1997, a handful of Plenty US staff and volunteers worked with members of the Maya grassroots groups like the Toledo Ecotourism Association, farmers’ groups, and the Fajina crafts cooperative — people whose purpose was to make a sustainable living without harming their local rainforest. While Plenty Belize’s basic purpose has stayed the same over the years, it has evolved to better meet the needs of the Toledo District. Directed and staffed by Belizeans, its scope of activities and partnerships has expanded greatly. Here’s a summary of what Plenty Belize does now.
Organic Farming Promotion —
From the Plenty Belize newsletter: “Our ancestors had a healthy life. Our generation is now suffering from diabetes heart disease, cancer, and other related health issues. Organic farming promotes healthier life and a longer life. Our ancestors did not have a mindset to go to a farmers’ depot to purchase seeds, fertilizers, insecticide or fungicide. We are just looking for the fast and easy way out, but this is what is causing our health problems and shortening our lives. Honor Our Ancestors! Go Organic!”
Garden-based Agriculture for Toledo’s Environment (GATE) —
Thirty-four schools are active in the Gate program, which supports organic food gardens and Garden-Based Learning, including integrating gardening with math science and English, health and nutrition, and food security and sovereignty. An adjunct project supports 20 students and their families from four villages who grow home gardens.
School Feeding Program —
Plenty Belize is a founding member of the Toledo School Feeding Program Committee, whose members say, “Hungry children do not learn well!” Plenty Belize has provided funding and assistance to outfit kitchens with equipment and utensils It is also a key organizer for the annual Toledo Food Fair.
The Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) —
With support from the European Union and the Government of Belize, Plenty Belize opened the Small Business Resource Center at its office in Punta Gorda. The SBRC provides planning and support for grant recipients through the Micro Grant for Poor Families Program (MGPFP) and through the Enterprise Engine for Rural Toledo Program. Since the inception of the MGPFP in May, Plenty Belize has received over 100 applications for 60 available grants, and is prioritizing applications from single parents, persons with disabilities, and persons living with and supporting persons with disabilities.
Solar Installations —
Plenty Belize has long promoted solar power for remote communities. It sells solar equipment and assists with system design and installations, the latest at Rio Blanco National Park (RBNP) in western Toledo District. Due to all-too-frequent power outages, Plenty Belize has installed a solar powered back-up system at its office. Whenever grid power is off, a battery-based system automatically provides AS power to computers, fans, and lights, which is a great demonstration project for visitors.
Community Collaborations —
Plenty Belize is an active member of Women’s Issues Network (WIN Belize). Win’s main focus this year is the Annual Torch Run that takes place throughout the country to raise awareness about Gender Based Violence and HIV and AIDS. Plenty Belize is also proud to be an active member of the Program for Toledo Children and Adolescents (TOLCA). TOLCA is a network of 14 organizations that promote the well-being of women, children, and adolescents. Through TOLCA, member agencies have assisted with school gardens, nutrition training, parenting training, women’s leadership development, school playgrounds and toilets, hygiene training, pre-schools, and much more. Plenty Belize will assist TOLCA and the Society for the Promotion of Education and Research (SPEAR) in conducting an assessment of all registered villages in Toledo, to more effectively plan and implement projects that wi8ll make a difference in the lives of local people.