Institutional Strengthening in Community Conservation of the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, Belize

Project location: BELIZE, Golden Stream
Project start date: September 2001 - Project end date: September 2002
Project number: 2001-01
Beneficiary: Fauna & Flora International

 

Major Activities and Achievements

Advocacy and Representation of Project

YCT/FFI successfully lobbied the Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources & Environment to achieve official recognition of the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve as an integral component of the national protected area system.

Forest Fire Awareness Campaign

Under the guidance of FFI, YCT conducted a forest fire awareness campaign within the communities. Activities included an essay and poster competition in area schools and a prize giving ceremony and display of work in the town square of Toledo's regional capital, Punta Gorda. During the 2002 dry season, the campaign successfully helped prevent the severe annual forest fires from threatening villages, livelihoods and habitat in the Golden Stream watershed (in sharp contrast to the devastating fires that broke out elsewhere in the District). In recognition of YCT's exemplary achievements in community organization and awareness activities, the Chief Forestry Officer of Belize's Forest Department asked YCT to coordinate a Ministry effort to organize further community fire awareness meetings through a MesoAmerican Biological Corridor funded programme.

Outreach and Education Activities

FFI's success in building the capacity of YCT was demonstrated by YCT's increased community outreach and education activities within the target indigenous communities. In addition to the forest fire campaign, YCT organized a week-long summer camp for children drawn from the area community schools. The theme of the camp - ecosystems of Belize - exposed the children to a greater appreciation of the country's environmental beauty and heritage, with field trips organized to both marine and terrestrial reserves, and interactive art and other activities to heighten overall awareness. YCT rangers also organized an environmental awareness competition at the Golden Stream community fair, which drew participation from children and adults alike. An environmental awareness pamphlet and colouring book were subsequently developed for use by the YCT Peace Corps volunteer in environmental awareness classes in area schools. YCT also conducted an organic garden training programme amongst select villagers of the buffer zone communities, raising awareness of the possibilities of sustainable agriculture, while simultaneously addressing livelihood needs. The publication and community-wide distribution of YCT's regular quarterly newsletters also proved a major awareness raising mechanism.

Forestry Management

Following the training programme in sustainable forestry management and monitoring organized by FFI for the YCT field rangers, the rangers were able to supervise a sustainable salvage operation conducted by community groups along the borders of the GSCP property. The multiple objectives of the programme were to provide affected communities with felled lumber with which to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Iris, which hit the area on October 8th 2001, to strengthen local awareness of sustainable forest management practices, to salvage a valuable resource, to improve the rangers' practical field expertise, and to clear buried GSCP boundaries and trails and to diminish the forest fire threat. All these objectives were met with resounding success.

Professional Management

YCT professional management skills were significantly strengthened during the year, with several training opportunities provided for the YCT Board of Directors and staff. In August 2002, FFI organized an intensive training session in fauna and flora identification for YCT's rangers, with staff from the Belize Audubon Society and the Ministry of Natural Resources providing the instruction. The rangers also underwent a training session in forest management issues and regulations pertinent to Belize and Central America in June 2002, and a further training session in reforestation techniques in September 2002. FFI also facilitated the application and admission of YCT's President to the London School of Economics, to study a one year Masters programme in Development and Environment. The YCT Project Coordinator also attended a one-month training programme in Community-Based Resource Management skills at St Francis Xavier University in Canada, for which a partial scholarship was also secured. YCT's professional management skills have also been strengthened through inclusion of a new representative - the Protected Areas Officer from the Forestry Department, Ministry of Natural Resources - on the YCT Board of Directors.

Fundraising and Project Development

By providing the means to maintain a stable office, staff and concomitant administrative expenses, the Nando Peretti Foundation enabled FFI to assist YCT in becoming more effective at fundraising and project development activities. As a result, during the year, three project proposals were approved for FFI/YCT activities in the Golden Stream. The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to support a project jointly proposed by FFI and Counterpart International, to foster the cultivation of organic cacao and vegetables as a biodiversity-friendly means of addressing livelihood needs in the Golden Stream. A grant from Belize's national Protected Areas Conservation Trust enabled the reconstruction of the YCT Multi-purpose Field Centre in the GSCP, with local residents gaining ownership of the building through being employed to work on the project. An additional grant from the British High Commission enabled YCT to set up a woodwork shop in the Field Centre grounds, provide an intensive 2-month training programme for a group of Mayan villagers in furniture construction and sustainable forest use, and limited marketing of their product as an additional means of addressing twinned conservation and livelihood goals. Such positive results clearly demonstrate that the process of securing YCT's institutional and project stability was significantly advanced during 2001-2002.

Partnership Building

Another major area of progress resulting from the support of the Nando Peretti Foundation was the increased capacity and effectiveness of YCT's networking skills and partnership-building. During the course of the project period, YCT's profile within the regional MesoAmerican Biological Corridor (MBC) project was significantly enhanced, as YCT actively contributed its experiences and recommendations before MBC meetings and events. YCT's success with the forest fire campaign and sustainable forestry initiatives fostered increasing collaboration with the Forestry Department, and hence the Government of Belize. YCT's growing profile also led to YCT being invited to sit on the management board for the Bladen Nature Reserve - an area of national land located to the northwest of GSCP, whose biodiversity significance is so great that no extraction activities of any kind are allowed within its area. In addition to collaborating in the management of Bladen, YCT was also the lead agency in establishing the Toledo Watershed Association, a multi-agency NGO alliance that aims to foster collaboration and coordination between the various Toledo conservation NGOs.

 

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