Daniel Contributing to Belize’s Green Economy

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Indigenous Q’eqchi’ Maya farmer Daniel Chiquin, a small scale farmer in the Maya Golden Landscape, is contributing to Belize’s green economy.

Young Daniel prepared for school, he watched his father Martin Chiquin as he prepared for his daily task of cleaning around orange trees on the family farm. The citrus industry was booming and farmers in Belize were establishing orange orchards.

In 2001, Hurricane Iris struck southern Belize severely affecting forests, homes, farms and livelihoods of communities. The Chiquin’s Family Farm was not spared. Eight years later Daniel’s father retired from his construction work, he considered joining Ya’axché’s agroforestry program. At the time, agroforestry was relatively a new farming practice in southern Belize; it encourages farmers to grow cacao and coffee under the forest canopy. Daniel became as involved as his father did in training workshops and exchange visits, both locally and internationally, organized by the Community Outreach & Livelihoods Program.

Daniel with his coffee shrub - Maximiliano Caal
Maya Golden Landscape farmer Daniel Chiquin at his family farm. | Photo: Maximiliano Caal

Daniel and his dad converted their orange orchard to a diversified agroforestry plot. Malay apple, coconut, mango, soursop, pineapple, cashew, allspice, custard apple, Suriname cherry, jippi-jappa and cohune palm are grown among native trees. Now, Daniel has 4 beehives that forage on plants and trees on and near the farm. Daniel has always been a visionary, dedicated and hard-working farmer, which has enabled him to generate revenue from honey, cohune leaves used for the roof of traditional Maya houses and in-season farm produce sold in the family grocery store.

The family farm has, since 2009, been expanded from a cacao-based agroforestry plot of 400 cacao trees, which were donated by Ya’axché. Now, Chiquin’s Family Farm has 1,500 cacao trees strategically planted over 4.3 acres, 325 coffee trees covering 1.2 acres, over 150 vanilla plants and various root crops. In addition to this climate-smart farming practice that supports wildlife, plans are in place to keep 4 acres of forest as a reserve on their 25 acre farm.

Recently harvested cacao pods - Sayuri Tzul
Recently harvested ripe cacao pods. The pods are broken to extract the cacao seeds along with the pulp, which would help in the later fermentation process. | Photo: Sayuri Tzul

Daniel has always been a forward thinker and knowledgeable farmer, and today, he welcomes visitors to his farm on tours. Through EcoTourism Belize’s EcoFarm and Cacao Farm tours, Daniel shares his skills, knowledge and experiences with visitors. On the farm, visitors are able to learn about the climate-smart farming practices while enjoying the various organic in-season fruits, birds and lush green scenery. This harmonious way of working the land has helped Daniel and his family to have diversified income streams while protecting forests and keeping his traditions alive.

Ya’axché’s team, which directly works with communities, is always amazed at the transformations Daniel is able to make on the family farm. Daniel is a shining example of a successful farmer and Chiquin’s Family Farm is a model farm used to inspire others to move towards sustainable farming practices that support livelihoods and help to keep our forest for future generations.

Daniel records over a hundred birds on his farm - Maximiliano Caal
Daniel has recorded over 130 bird species on his farm. On a day, birders can see up to 90 species of birds. | Photo: Maximiliano Caal

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