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Serving the entire country of Belize and finding itself involved in a wide cross spectrum of projects, resulted in BEST having to narrow its focus to ensure maximum results. Present programs include Micro-Credit and Enterprise Development, Technology, Training and Networking through mentoring, Natural Resource Management and Intermediate Marketing. Below are details of the following programs:

Micro-Credit and Enterprise Development: Since 1990, BEST has provided micro-credit using Community Banks. Based on the Grameen Bank model of Bangladesh, this approach provides borrowers with credit to finance small businesses. It emphasizes the provision of business management training along with credit as a means of economic empowerment. This program targets women, primarily, though a small minority of men is accepted into the banks. BEST has over ten years experience in the promotion of community banks. BEST has financed over six hundred and sixty loans (660) to thirteen (13) banks with over one hundred and thirty two (132) members. These banks have provided loans starting from four hundred ($400.00) dollars progressing to about one thousand (100,000.00) dollars. Once the first loan has been repaid, banks are usually provided with additional credit over a maximum of nine (9) sixteen-week cycles, after which they become independent entities. However, members must save twenty (20%) percent of each loan.

In 1994, with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funding, BEST established a formal micro-credit program. This program grew from six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000.00) in 1995 to just over one million dollars ($1000,000.00) in 1999. The portfolio currently has a total of one hundred and eighty (180) loans advanced to both individuals and groups. These loans have benefited over five hundred (500) individuals from the creation of fiver hundred (500) jobs. In 1999, BEST was contracted to implement the Micro-Credit component of the Social Investment Fund (SIF) for Belize, to provide the sum of one million four hundred and thirty three thousand dollars ($1,433,000.00) in credit funds over the period from July 1990 to December 2001. Actual loan disbursement commenced in October 1999 in Belize and Cayo districts. At December 31, 2001, one thousand eight hundred twenty seven (1,827) loans totalling BZE $ 1, 867,823.18 were disbursed.
To ensure successful enterprises and high repayment rate, arrange of business management training, agronomic and marketing advice and support always accompanied credit. Management training at BEST includes but not limited to: management responsibilities, feasibility studies, simple record keeping for the small business person and marketing. Agronomic assistance is provided, as necessary to farmers and others in the agriculture industry. In an attempt to ensure a range of feasible small businesses, market surveys and feasibility studies are conducted from time to time in order to be in line with up to date technology that would in turn be provided and promoted to borrowers.

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Integrated Agriculture:

Present activities include agro-forestry development, environmental education, and marketing of non-timber products. Focus is on agro-forestry development targeting schools in the Cayo district. Students are taught the need for conservation and techniques of agro-forestry development. Participating schools develop their own nurseries. BEST also has a commercial nursery with approximately six thousand (6,000) seedlings ready for distribution. Included in this range of plants are non-timber products, primarily medicinal plants.

Intermediate Marketing Organization:

Through a project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), BEST is involved in organizing farmers in forming an association for the production and marketing of habanero peppers. BEST purchases these peppers from the farmers and sells them to exporters, where they are shipped to the USA. Approximately ten thousand (10,000) pounds of peppers are sold per week from producers assisted. This project has led to the inclusion of other products for exportation including coco yams and plantains. BEST has been approved, since July 23, 2001 as the second National Agency for the Caribbean Agricultural and Fisheries Project (CARTF) for Belize. In this capacity, BEST will be promoting the development and implementation of worthwhile research and technical training projects to be funded by CARTF.

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