Preserve the Natural Paradise in Belize

Project location: BELIZE, Golden Stream
Project start date: September 2001 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 0000-09
Beneficiary: Fauna & Flora International

 

The partnership between the Nando Peretti Foundation and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been a fundamental driving force in conserving endangered species and ecosystems in southern Belize, whilst developing sustainable livelihoods within rural Mayan communities. With technical and institutional support from FFI and financial support from the Nando Peretti Foundation, Ya'axché has grown from a small grassroots group into a strong and self-sustaining organization, maintaining its indigenous roots. Having secured land for conservation within the Golden Stream Watershed in Toledo, Belize's southernmost - and poorest district, Ya'axché has become a role model for protected area conservation and forest-friendly rural development, both within Belize and internationally. None of this would have been possible without the long term support provided by the Nando Peretti Foundation over the past six years.

 

PROJECT ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS

This report provides an overview of the activities and achievements of the 4th project cycle from May 2006 to May 2007. The report is organized under the two main constituents of the project; coordinating livelihoods and conservation through capacity building, and support of local human resources.

Livelihoods and conservation through capacity building

FFI's Americas & Caribbean Programme Manager has worked with regional and UK based teams to ensure key lessons related to the forest-friends livelihood activities are embedded within both FFI and Ya'axché. FFI's Americas Regional Meeting, held in Nicaragua in October 2006, encompassed in-house training on embedding livelihoods across our conservation programmes, with a focus on monitoring and evaluating the social impacts of conservation activities and livelihood initiatives. This meeting facilitated a comparison of approaches to sustainable use of natural resources and of biodiversity-friendly livelihoods alternatives throughout the region. Support from the Nando Peretti Foundation has ensured that the pioneering principles applied in Belize are shared across FFI's programs, throughout the Americas and further afield. Nando Peretti Foundation funds have supported essential office and administrative costs of the shared FFI / Ya'axché office in Punta Gorda, Toledo. The importance of this type of support to the overall and everyday management of the programme cannot be underestimated.

Support of Local Human Resources

Monitoring and enforcement in the Golden Stream Watershed

Over the last year Ya'axché has greatly expanded its efforts to monitor permitted activities and prevent illegal activities throughout the Golden Stream Corridor. By encouraging Ya'axché to join forces with other NGOs (see below) overall patrol coverage along the rivers and coasts has greatly increased and the numbers of incursions have dropped. Ya'axché is now forging links with other entities such as the Belize Defence Force, the police, and the Fisheries and Forest Departments to ensure that effective coverage of the Golden Stream Corridor is extended into neighbouring Forest Reserves and that serious attention is paid to preventing illegal hunting, logging and fishing.

Ya'axché maintains one of the most advanced biodiversity monitoring systems in Belize. Whilst this data will help detect long term trends, it is already clear that the populations of birds and mammals favoured by hunters are considerably lower than expected; increased vigilance through the expanded Ya'axché ranger team is paramount.

 

Enhancing Management Structures and Development within Ya'axché

Technical support from FFI and financial support from the Nando Peretti Foundation has been instrumental in strengthening the coordination and management of Ya'axché over the past year. For the first time, Ya'axché was able to recruit an Executive Director, Carlos Montero; a development which we anticipate will greatly enhance the overall management and sustainability of the organization. FFI's Belize Country Manager, Lisel Alamilla, who has extensive experience in the NGO sector, is working closely with the new Executive Director as he settles into his new role and gradually assumes increased oversight of Ya'axché's activities in the field, alongside strategic planning, networking, communication and fundraising.

Some examples of Ya'axché's recent collaborations include:

Toledo Healthy Forest Initiative (THFI); Ya'axché is one of the most committed members of the THFI, an innovative scheme initiated by the Government to promote sustainable community managed forestry in southern Belize. Ya'axché is currently assisting the scheme in conducting forest resource assessments to evaluate whether local communities will be able to benefit indefinitely from scientifically-sound forest management.

Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment (TIDE); Catalysed by the GEF funded project to integrate protected area and landscape management, Ya'axché is working more closely with TIDE, and the two organizations, drafting a Memorandum of Agreement to formalize and strengthen collaboration. TIDE's expertise is greatest in conserving coastal and river ecosystems, whilst Ya'axché's focus is on the protection of forests and provision of economic opportunities for indigenous communities. This MoA will enable each organization to capitalize on each other's strengths, combining and increasing the effective use of human and financial resources to protect the wider landscape of the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor.

Citrus Growers Association (CGA); Ya'axché continues to strengthen its community enterprise activities and is developing a project with Citrus Growers Association (CGA) and the Tumulkin Centre of Learning that will focus on establishing and marketing ecotourism initiatives in southern Belize. This initiative will combine "agroecotourism" around the citrus plantations in Stann Creek district with "cultural-ecotourism" in the forests and indigenous communities of Toledo. This will enable Ya'axché to consolidate the significant progress that it has made to date with its Botanical Garden and the Indian Creek Conservation Group.

Whilst Ya'axché still relies heavily on FFI for fundraising, in March 2007 Carlos attended a dedicated fundraising conference in Mexico, at which he met new potential partners and learnt about the art of securing financial support. FFI is encouraging Ya'axché to make direct links with funding agencies and institutions, and interest in Ya'axché's conservation and community development work has been noted nationally and internationally.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Without doubt, the consistent support provided by the Nando Peretti Foundation since 2001 has been pivotal to the substantial growth of the Ya'axché Conservation Trust and its success in integrating biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development in southern Belize.

The NPF has supported Ya'axché through a highly critical period of its development, enabling it to achieve sustainable local capacity development; something that does not happen over the course of a year, or even three. As a result, Ya'axché is now a well-established, grounded organization with many exciting possibilities to explore in its ongoing mission to assist local communities in protecting the natural resources of Belize.


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