Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Farmers in Toledo District report huge losses after wildfires ravage the area


The current dry season combined with a heat wave is to blame for wildfires affecting several farmers in southern Belize. The uncontrollable flames have gutted entire farms, destroying acres of crops. Many of these farmers and their families are left without their primary source of income and need assistance to move forward in the aftermath of this natural disaster.
The wildfires raged for over two weeks through the southern Toledo District and into the Cayo District, threatening communities, wildlife, and national parks. In the Cayo District, the Forest Department responded to a fire believed to have been started by squatters. In the case of Toledo, the current heat wave and dry weather are to blame. The unprecedented incident has even forced schools to close because of the poor air quality due to the smoke in the area. Most of the devastating fires have been quelled; however, the damage has been done. One of the areas heavily affected is near the community of San Pedro, Columbia, in Toledo. The Minister of Blue Economy and Disaster Risk Management, the Honorable Andre Perez, visited the community and, along with the Area Representative of Toledo West, Oscar Requena, toured the area near San Pedro, Columbia. Perez shared that the destruction is vast and that the agriculture sector in this part of the country has been devastated. He warned that if there is any shortage of agricultural products, it will be due to this unfortunate natural occurrence.
As a result, a state of public emergency has been in effect for the Toledo District since May 19th. The National Emergency Organization Management has been working hand in hand with the Toledo District Emergency Operations Centre. They monitor the situation and provide immediate firefighting and humanitarian assistance as needed. Meanwhile, a damage and needs assessment is underway.
One affected farmer, Hilberto Kuf from San Pedro, Columbia, spoke to the media about his situation. His 30-acre farm and everything planted on it were turned to ashes by the fire. Although there are yearly fires, Ku said this is the first time they witnessed such a disaster. “We have to start from square one now,” he said. “It will take years before we begin to harvest again.” Ku said he and other affected farmers would return and try to plant all that was lost, including crops like corn, beans, fruits, and even cacao trees, all destroyed in the flames.
San Pedro, Columbia’s First Alcalde (mayor) Roman Rash, is appealing for assistance and hopes the government can help. He said farmers in the area will face a hard time during the next six months. The call for help is to the government and anyone willing and able to assist the affected farmers and their families.

Satellite image of fires in the region

For more information and who to contact to help in any possible way, Daniel Mendez, NEMO’s National Emergency Coordinator, can be reached at telephone number 822-2054 or by email at [email protected].
Massive wildfires have been reported across the region, including in Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico.

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