REPORT #571 December 2002

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Science of course, in Belize is a relatively new thing. The orientation in colonial times, was to the export of people ( the brain drain) by the local Jesuit establishment in education. The subject service reorientation and reorganization of higher education in Belize has been ongoing for about eight years now. I wonder how it is doing? We don't hear much from the media, or from the higher educational institutions in Belize.

I do know that there has been a Marine Biology station at Calabash Caye for a long time. But one does not know if any upper graduate research work is going on, or whether it caters only to undergraduate beginning courses? Somebody should tell us sometime?

We have a number of Agriculture Research Stations around the nation of Belize. But what percentage if any at all, of students in Community College, or higher education in Belize are involved with these Agriculture Research Stations in Belize is not known either. It would be interesting knowledge and something proud for Belizeans to identify with, if there were actually some local higher education institutions doing such research? If there is; somebody is missing the boat, by not advertising such things through the media.

In Agriculture, to my layman's mind, the biggest challenge facing Belize is how to enable subsistance farming on limestone land that has no top soil to speak of, on a repetitive basis. In other words, how to enable Mayan subsistance farmers and new immigrants who farm by hand, with a machete and hardened stick to utilize the same plot of land over and over again? Simple organic fertilizer methods. Currently, slash and burn agriculture is wasteful of land. Using the ashes of burning jungle that has grown up over the previous thirty years of fallow time to fertilize and produce two years of crops before moving on, might be a sustainable practice in low population areas, but is going to become impossible in the future as population grows.

Thus I personally, would say that the Science Agriculture training of higher education in Belize should certainly be investigating and experimenting with the trials of organic fertilizer crops, suitable to hand labor with primitive tools. We know for instance, that the Mennonites and Frank Desmond has found that, planting a crop of clover and black eyed beans that can be turned under by harrowing with mechanized equipment will increase corn production yields on the same land plots. But these large farmers do mechanized farming. Subsistance farmers that use hand tools in the Peten are supposedly doing something similar with Velvet Beans. The Cacao farmers of the Toledo District growing jungle shaded cacao trees are using some other trees between the spacing to fix nitrogen in the soil. But what are they using for corn? Certainly, there is room for years of experimentation and studies for our students of higher education in Belize to make science courses of our higher educational institutions functional, for the betterment of our society and country of Belize.

But are they doing it? If not, why not? How do you fix it, if they are not?

Take Marine Biology and associated research. There is a lot of work going on in bigger countries regarding stem cell research. Stem cells can reproduce any cell of the body. But little known, is the phenomena of zebrafish. Zebrafish can regrow organs. The National Institute of Medicine in the USA has funded John Keating with experiments in Zebrafish. He operated in the laboratory on a Zebrafish, which presumably we have one also in our Belizean Higher Institutes of Learning and Education? He cut out 20 % of the heart and in two months the Zebrafish grew back the whole heart and functioned normally. So my question is: how many of the thousand fish and marine species on our fabulous Coral Barrier Reef are regenerative? I know our Coconut Land Crab is, the Stone Crab is and so is the Spiny Lobster. But are any of the fish? The skin of the Puffer fish is supposed to have all kinds of chemicals and enzymes desired by drug companies that they want to figure out and synthesize. Are any students in Belize studying microbiology? Are they doing any original research in this fabulous resource we have on the reefs? It would seem to this layman, that regenerative abilities are better than using stem cells. So Belize has an educational and commercial goldmine potential. But are our institutions of Higher Education in Belize doing anything with it? Or do we just train these brains and export them? Are they requiring these students to do original research, of benefit to their educational institutions, their country and themselves? I forget now, but there is actually a sea creature in Belize that concentrates gold out of millions of gallons of seawater, that nobody has figured out yet, how to replicate. Lots of challenges for students in Belizean Science Education in Belize. Perhaps though it would be interesting to learn how regeneration works? Which genes are involved. Can we do this in Belize? Theoretically yes! Are we? Doubtful! There are students doing microbiology in the cold winter months from the USA on cacao farms in Trinidad. They are cloning cacao. Can any students in Belize clone our tropical plants instead of the laborious job of producing hybrid seed? If not, why not? How do we make it possible?

Is the Corozal Community College and the Belmopan Community College producing software programmers yet? If not, why not? If not, how do we do it? The challenges and opportunities are immense for Belizean higher education students. It is a whole lot easier to do things in this small pond of Belize than in some huge university in far away countries. All it takes is initiative and a mentor who encourages.

There is even money in it. Fame and fortune! Ahhh! To be young again!

Back to Main Belize Development Trust Page

Maintained by Ray Auxillou, Silvia Pinzon, MLS, and Marty Casado. Please email with suggestions or additions for this Electronic Library of Belize.