CMC – The Inter-American Development Bank announced Thursday that it has approved a US$15 million loan and up to US$800,000 in grant funding for the Sustainable and Inclusive Belize project, which seeks to bolster revenue from agriculture and tourism, two of the most essential pillars of Belize’s economy.
The operation will focus on boosting the competitiveness, climate resilience, and environmental sustainability of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in both sectors.
It will benefit small farms, members of agricultural associations, and owners and employees of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in agriculture and tourism throughout the country, and target women, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, and migrants.
“This loan will support sustainable tourism business plans for approximately 200 micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, with a particular emphasis on those working to reduce impacts on the environment, improve climate resilience and foster digitalization and innovation,” the IDB said.
“At the same time, it will target around 1,500 small farmers from low-income families that are under severe pressure from climate change to drive profitable, sustainable, and climate-resilient farming systems.”
The Washington-based bank said the funds will be used to provide gender- and culturally sensitive technical assistance to farmers to encourage good environmental practices in agriculture.
Farmers will also be given financial aid by vouchers for support from technical advisors on executing their farm plans, with inputs, equipment, etc.
Additionally, the loan will fund work to design and implement green business plans for around 40 groups of farmers – cooperatives, associations, etc. – and 80 micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises and provide financial support for sustainable technologies for about half of them.
The plans will also include investments to improve market access for these businesses.
Tourism accounted for 39 per cent of Belize’s GDP in 2019, while agriculture contributed 10 per cent, and both sectors rely heavily on the health of the country’s natural resources. They also face major and similar challenges that undermine their competitiveness and sustainability.
The IDB noted that Belize’s economy has begun a vigorous rebound: GDP shot up 12.5 per cent in 2021 and is projected to grow another 6.5 per cent in 2022, despite the impact brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said the country must navigate lingering uncertainty and risks from the ongoing health crisis, the frequency of natural disasters, and rising inflation.