Archive for Community Outreach and Livelihoods

Bladen Nature Reserve Field Trip for Students

BNR Management Zones

The Bladen Nature Reserve is one of the most pristine areas and has the highest level of protection in Belize. Ya’axché organized field trips for primary school students from buffering communities and also for high school students, but it was not a regular field trip, it was to educate young students about the Bladen Nature Reserve.

By law, the Bladen Nature Reserve allows only two things to happen inside its boundaries which are research and education. The reserve is divided into two zones, a natural environment zone and a preservation zone. In the natural environment zone only research and education may occur but in the preservation zone no one is regularly permitted to engage in any activity. The Bladen Nature Reserve is a no take protected area.

The Bladen River is the river that runs north-easterly through the nature reserve with is also classified as the mother of the Monkey River Watershed which feeds into nearby rivers and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.  

On March 30th 2010 rangers along with teachers from Medina Bank, Indian Creek, and Golden Stream primary schools and Ya’axché volunteers took 49 students and on March 31st 52 students into the nature reserve. Not only were students given the opportunity to explore, but the trip also provided an opportunity for the rangers to practice their strategies of communication, as rangers are look at by Ya’axché as local teachers and ambassadors of Ya’axché who engage in hands-on environmental education. The ranger had open discussions with the children to better understand the roles that rangers play to manage such a huge area with rich biodiversity.

Through this practical adventure, the elementary students were able to observe the pristine and invaluable resources of the nature reserve. This activity directly involved the future decision makers of the three buffer communities, hopefully influencing their relationship with managing the communities natural resources sustainably.

Ya'axche ranger Explaining the importance of pristine rivers

Various situations encountered within the nature reserve were used as “teachable moments” to relate to problems posed to it. The rustic road entrance was used to illustrate the likely hood of impacts and threats posed not only by the surrounding communities but by anyone since it is accessible.  The Pine Savannah and the boundary line was used to discuss prescribed burning to prevent the spread of wild fires from Pine Savannahs. Rangers also talked about nutrient cycles, forest structure, pollution and littering, erosion control, seed dispersion, healthy water systems and the importance of wildlife.

Students were brought to the Blue Pool to show the importance and beauty of pristine waters which affect reefs because of their interconnectivity.

Through these field trips Ya’axché focused on educating the teachers and the future decision makers – students, about the value of effectively managed community natural resources. By spending time within the most pristinely conserved area of the Toledo District, the students and educators were able to observe the interconnectedness between their use of resources outside the nature reserve and what happens within Bladen Nature Reserve.

On April 1st 2010 26 high school students attended the field trip, with a Ya’axché  ranger and Education Outreach Officer. Ya’axché hopes to enable the students to become stewards of conservation in their communities, and give them training and skills they need to continue on in the path of environmental education.

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Ya’axché promoting Sustainable Livelihoods within the communities of the Toledo District

“Production of Cacao in an Agroforestry System”

Farmers in Honduras

Ya’axché  Conservation Trust in its ongoing efforts of promoting sustainable livelihoods in southern Belize, has coordinated a 5-day training course for local farmers in advance cacao production. A delegation of 15 participants travelled to Honduras to receive training from Fundacion Hondurena De Investigacion Agricola (FHIA). The main objective of the course was to gain more knowledge and information in cacao production, with a focus on the biology of the plant, pest and disease control, shade management, pruning, harvesting, proper steps for fermentation, types of soil that favor cacao, and agro-forestry techniques and site visits.

Experts explain to farmers Agroforestry techniques

The training which took place from February 15th to 20th, 2010 had the participation of three  staff members from the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA), in a addition to the twelve farmers from the communities that buffer the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve in attendance. Farmers were amazed and delighted to see the production of cacao in its many stages, including the final steps of extracting the seeds. By adopting and modifying the practices learnt in Honduras, Ya’axché anticipates these enlightened and motivated  farmers to transform the production of cacao in Belize. With their newly acquired knowledge and experience, these farmers are poised to address the difficulties caused by the effects, sharing skills with fellow farmers in the district.

This training was made possible by the generous support of the Organization of American States (OAS).

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Solar Water Pump Installed in Medina Bank

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Solar Pump Installation (photo Ya'axché)

On the 16th of October 2009, Christopher Nesbit from the Maya Mountain Research Farm installed a solar Submersible water pump for the community of Medina Bank. This water pump was able to pump over 3000 gallons of water per day on full sun. This came in handy for the much needed portable water for the community of Medina Bank.

The objectives of installing this solar water pump are to provide portable water to 38 households in Medina Bank, provide clean water to 63 children at school and later provide clean water to school kitchen, income generation for the Water Board and Village council and later to provide clean water to the organic garden plot in Medina Bank.

Energy to power the water pump comes directly from the sun. There is no need to use diesel or gasoline fuel for power to generate electricity. The generator that powers the water system uses diesel fuel that emits a significant amount carbon into the atmosphere everyday at Medina Bank adding to the effects of Climate Change. This solar pumping water system is reducing the emission of carbon into the atmosphere, therefore allowing the community of Medina Bank to adapt to a more efficient and sustainable Water system.

This idea of using solar water pump came into the picture when Ya’axché began working with 5 members of Medina Bank in setting up a garden plot with the drip irrigation system. At the time Ya’axche had installed a drip irrigation system using a small gasoline water pump.  This small project was made possible through the Organization of American State (OAS) funding; however the gasoline water pump was consuming a lot of gasoline fuel that is incurring a lot of expense for the garden plot.

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Spring at Medina Bank (photo Ya'axché)

Christopher Nesbit was invited to assess the possibility of setting up a solar water pump for the garden plot in Medina Bank. At the time Medina Bank water system was not working due to damage engine that power the generator.  In Medina Bank there is a beautiful water source, a natural underground spring that pushes out clean water all year round. This clean water from the spring is being used by the community for drinking and cooking at home throughout the dry season. Christopher recommends that a solar submersible pump will work very well at the site.

A solar powered submersible pump cost $3000.00Bze and Ya’axché had no funds at the time to purchase this type of pump and also we had no funds to purchase the PV that is required to produce energy for the pump. Christopher Nesbit from the Maya Mountain Research Farm (MMRF) had connections through BP and asks for donation of 4 Photovoltaic to the Medina Bank water system project. His request was successful. He donated 4 PV to Medina Bank; each PV is producing 180 watts at 36 volts. These four PV’s will be able to operate one DC submersible water pump that will pump over 3000 gals of water per day for the community of Medina Bank.

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Mrs Cara Huddleston (photo Ya'axché)

At this time Cara Huddleston, a volunteer at the Maya Mountain Research Farm, she too wanted to be part of the project in Medina Bank. Christopher and Ya’axché Community Outreach Officer, Auxebio Sho, had discussion of the project and later ask Auxebio to meet with Mrs. Cara Huddleston at the MMRF. Auxebio  arranged a date to meet with Cara at MMRF to discuss more about the project. Auxebio gave Cara a brief history of Ya’axche and its program areas, its goals in conservation and sustainable development for communities like Medina Bank. Cara wanted to help the community of Medina Bank and she pledge to seek funding to purchase the much needed submersible water pump.

Cara went to the US and began asking friends for donations to purchase the water pump that will be used for Medina Bank water system. It took a few months before she could get all the funds necessary for the pump. The pump was purchase in the US and took a few weeks before it finally arrived and delivered by Christopher and Cara at the Ya’axche PG office. The community had the pump and the PV but needed additional funds to purchase the electric wires, PVC pipes and fittings necessary to install the system.

The Village Council and the Water Board of Medina Bank agreed to provide additional funds of $1650.00bze to purchase these items which came to a total cost of $2465.18. The Golden Stream

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Items for Solar Water Pump (photo Ya'axché)

Watershed initiative (GSW) provides the additional matching fund of $815.18 to purchase items. Additional tools and materials were purchase for the training that had an additional cost of $113.55bze.

Cost of the Solar water pumping system in Median Bank Village

Four PV donated by Chris Nesbit, each PV have an output of 180 watts at 36 volts Direct Current-10000.00

Solar submersible water pump purchase by Mrs. Cara Huddleston: $3000.00

Additional items for installation purchased by Medina Bank and Ya’axche/GSW: $2638.73

Labour cost for digging & covering trench done by Medina Bank community: $630.00

Training in Installation/transportation done by Chris Nesbit and paid through Ya’axche/OAS: $3000.00

Total: Bze$19,268.70

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Spring At Medina Bank (photo Ya'axché)

The water source is from an underground spring at Deep River which pushes out clean water throughout the year. The solar submersible pump is set into spring approximately 6 ft bellow and is attached to a concrete frame above with a rope. The water is transported through 11/4 inch PVC pipes connected from the pump to the storage tank approximately 540 ft away. Electricity from the panels to the pump is through two 6 gauge wires that are 540 feet long; this is the distance between the pump to the Panels and storage tank. The 6 gauge wires are protected by one inch PVC pipes that are set along the water line from the panels to the pump. The solar panels are mounted on four 4 feet posts above ground level for easy installation and maintenance and also for easy removal in case of hurricane storm during the hurricane season.

The water is stored in a 2500 gal’s tank and the overflow is channelled to a concrete storage tank that holds 2000 gallons of water. Water from the storage tank is channelled through primary and secondary PVC lines that are connected to 38 households. On sunny hot days the water pump will pump over 3000 gallons of water per day and will keep the storage tank full throughout the day.

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Village Woman Transporting Drinking Water (photo Ya'axché)

The Leaders and community members were excited to see the water system working again, they no longer need to transport water from the spring and up the hill with gallons and buckets. The kids at school have clean drinking water and would be using the water for the garden. No burning of fossil fuel and if the system is monitored and maintain very often it will serve 10 to 20 years.

We greatly appreciate the assistant of Mrs. Cara Huddleston, Christopher Nesbit, and members of Medina Bank community to make this small project successful one of its first kind in the district.

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Solar Panels (photo Ya'axché)

Medina Bank is very thankful and happy for the Solar Water Pump.

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Community Of Medina Bank (photo Ya'axché)

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Drip Irrigation System Installed in the Medina Bank Organic Farm

Drip irrigation filter and distribution system

Drip irrigation filter and distribution system

As part of its Community Outreach and Livelihood efforts, Ya’axché has installed a drip irrigation system in Medina Bank Village. The system will help the fresh organic seedlings planted just a month ago thrive throughout the upcoming dry season, which lasts through the Belizean spring and early summer. Before the irrigation system was set up, farmers spent large parts of their days transporting water from nearby rivers and streams to their garden plots. They no longer have to do that.

The system installation and associated training was provided by the Agriculture Department in the village of Central Farm in the Cayo District, and was coordinated by our office with the investment capital provided by the farmers themselves. On a day in early March, the team put in a long day setting up the system. They placed the pump in the river, connected about a hundred meters of PVC piping, and installed filtration and distribution systems that culminate in drip emitters at the base of every plant. At full operation, each plant receives approximately on liter of fresh, clean water per hour. Once the pump started working that evening, everyone was very excited!

Installing the pump in the river

Installing the pump in the river

This system maximizes efficient water use while providing each plant the amount of water it needs. Efficient water distribution increases each crop yield in this new organic community farm. With proper maintenance the system should run for about three to five years, with project profitability achieved after only two. Water efficiency, organic produce and increased profitability, another win-win-win!

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