Archive for News and Other Updates

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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Freshwater Bio-monitoring in Southern Belize

Freshwater Bio-monitoring

Freshwater bio-monitoring is integral to watershed management throughout the developed world. Nonetheless, many tropical developing countries, including Belize, lack formal procedures and methods for monitoring and managing water quality. Therefore, we are pleased to announce that, with funding from Rufford Small Grants Foundation, Ya’axché will be facilitating research to develop cost-effective bio-monitoring systems for tropical rivers.

This research will investigate natural biological variability and variation in response to anthropogenic impact to contribute to the development of monitoring tools that are able to indicate river health. It will provide a crucialcomponent to the development of standardized and cost effective methods, allowing those interested in the management of freshwater ecosystems to monitor impacts and evaluate the effectiveness of management activities.

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Fire Training for Ya’axché Rangers and Southern Belize Fire Working Group

Ya'axche Ranger at Fire Training

On February 27th and 28th 2010 Ya’axché rangers and other members of the Southern Belize Fire Working Group benefited from a fire management training held at Golden Stream Field Centre, Bladen Nature Reserve and Payne’s Creek National Park. The training was facilitated by experts with extensive experience in fire management: TIDE’s Mario Muschamp and Mr. Oswaldo Sabido. The training focused on ecological concepts, ecosystems, fire classification, fire hazards and management.

On the first day participants were given theoretical training on the application of fire and fire management. Rangers understood the differences between fire influenced, fire dependent and fire independent ecosystems and which are fire dependent savannah and fire influenced broadleaf forest. They were also introduced to the different components of a fire regime for each of these ecosystems and the roles that humans play in influencing these regimes. The use of prescribed fire in protected natural areas, buffer zones and forest reserves was justified by describing the different types of burns, history of fire use, and the appropriate management response in each case.

Lessons were given to understand the basic concepts to understanding and defining fire, identifying the parts of the fire triangle and its role in combustion, understanding the four heat transfer mechanisms and how they influence fire behaviour and fire effects. Not only were they taught to understand but also to be able to explain the components of a wild-land fire, flame characteristics, and the concepts of rate of speed, intensity and total heat release.

Rangers also learned how principal elements of weather determine fire behaviour. Integral to this was the effect of cold fronts, the importance of atmospheric stability to fire behaviour and smoke dispersal during and after prescribed burns. Fire weather knowledge in planning and implementation of prescribed burns which is highly effective was passed on to the participants.

Not only were participants understanding the concepts and importance of fires but also taught fire breaks and ignition techniques to control fire. Rangers were able to differentiate between “soft” and “hard” lines, understand the principles of control line placement, width and accessibility.

Fire in the Fields

Ignition patterns and when and how they are used to produce desired fire effects before identifying ignition devices which can cause wildfires were discussed. Fuel characteristics and types and help to understand the concept of fuel size and dead fuel moisture time lag, real examples were used.

They were also taught contingencies, safety, suppression tactics and mop-up. They learned defining and identifying contingencies such as natural and man-made barriers to fire spread and also identifying potential hazards and the measures which may be taken to mitigate those hazards and suppression tactics for escaped prescribed burns taking into consideration good safe practice that is required in the mop-up process and above all be sure about the level of mop-up needed after different kinds of burns in different conditions.

On day two, February 28th 2010, theory met reality when the team headed to Bladen Nature Reserve. The rangers were prepared with protective clothing and briefed upon initial activities also giving them a lesson on correct usage and safety issues of all the equipment that would be used for the activity.

The team chopped down highly flammable palmetto using machetes since the relative humidity was too high as a precaution. A blackline was placed between two parcels of savannah land when the time seemed suitable. The rangers applied all their skills learned from the previous day of theory classes, ensuring that the fire never escaped. This was accomplished by wetting the periphery using bladder bags and hoses. The blackline was a success, using a combination of theory with the trail and error of practical fire fighting under constant supervision.

The mop-up which consisted of patrolling the periphery raking and flapping and wetting any still burning material and knocking over standing trees which was classified, not safe was conducted at the last stage of the training.

This experience was very valuable and interesting but also this training helped the rangers better understand the use and management of fire especially in Pine Savannahs.

Ya’axché would like to thank Mario Mushchamp of TIDE and Oswaldo Sabido for generously devoting their time to build capacity for protected area management in Southern Belize, and Wildlife Without Borders (WWB) of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for providing funds in order for this training to be accomplished.

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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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December 13th 2009 Hydro Dam Meeting

The following are extracts from the meeting at San Pedro Columbia regarding the Potential Hydro Dam in Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserve.

Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve Committee
San Pedro Columbia Village
Toledo District
Belize, C.A
December 14, 2009
San Pedro Columbia Village, Toledo District

Addressed to the Prime Minister of Belize Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Barrow Is Called To Stand In Solidarity With Belizeans And Ensure That Our Laws Are Respected.

Over 300 Belizeans from several communities in Toledo in attendance of a public meeting held on December 13, 2009 in San Pedro Columbia call upon the Prime Minister to act in the interest of Belizeans and our protected areas. Despite a number of requests to our area representative, Hon. Juan Coy and the Chief Forest Officer, Belize Hydroelectric Development & Management Company Ltd. (BHD) none has dialogued with us.  As a result of the many unanswered questions in regards to unsustainable development specifically the proposed construction of a hydroelectric facility in our most pristine areas we formed the Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve Committee which sent a team to see firsthand what the development company was doing. The concerns, findings and recommendation generated from this Educational Field Visit and from community members were presented at this community meeting which started at 1:30 pm and concluded at 6:15 pm.  We found numerous violations reference BHD’s permit and the National Park System Act, which has resulted in the following resolution:

We hereby call upon the Government of Belize to REVOKE the concession agreement granted to Belize Hydro-electric Development and Management Ltd (BHD) on December 5, 2008 signed by the Prime Minister Hon. Dean O Barrow. This development activity, in one of Belize’s most pristine areas, threatens the ecological integrity of Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserve along with the social well being of several communities in the Toledo District.  We will no longer accept the unsustainable use of our natural resources that are the lifeline of our society.

Furthermore, the Toledo Alcaldes Association convened an emergency meeting with all its Alcaldes on December 14th, 2009 and unanimously stood in solidarity with the resolution tabled at the San Pedro Columbia meeting held on December 13, 2009.

We request that the Government of Belize adhere and publicly respond to the December 13th 2009 public resolution. In the event that this is not addressed in its entirety we will have no other option but to engage in a peaceful protest to demand that our rights and the rights of our protected areas be fully respected and ask for the December 5th 2008 Concession Agreement to be REVOKED.

For more information please contact:
Nicanor Requena, Committee Chairman, San Pedro Columbia Village, Toledo District
Belize, C.A, Cell number: 628-4252, email: nicrequena@gmail.com

Central River in Bladen Nature Reserve

 

Good Afternoon Village Committee, Honourable Juan Coy,  Mr. Jeff, Villagers of Columbia and other invited guests.

Season Greetings to All

Ms Ash making her speech

I am a villager of San Pedro Columbia with concern about this hydro dam that they are planning to build between Bladen Nature Reserve and Columbia River Forest Reserves. These two places are reserves and it can be sold however a Nature Reserve  needs to be de-reserved if so be the case more so this is yet another process for BHD to undertake. In such cases the government should ask the people in the south, especially the villages of Columbia but instead taking the authority to do whatever they want is not right. This dam, if built, might not be beneficial to everyone but will affect many adversely, for sure. What are the consequences of this? Honourable Coy do you think you should listen to the people and do what they want? Yes people want jobs like you’ve said in the previous meeting but not in this form of development by the way, I should not say development but rather “destruction” because it will destroy our beautiful rivers and our environment. There are other means that we can help in getting jobs for people; for example getting funding for people to do farming, raising chickens, doing business like how Plenty Belize and SHI are doing.

Also I know this dam will produce electricity but ­let me tell you electricity is not that important like water which is the essential one for living and land which God made for everyone to enjoy. Let’s look at the past, our ancestors didn’t use electricity but they survive; also, an alternative way of getting electricity is through solar power which does not damage anything but it can also create jobs because someone can be trained to install and maintain it.

By the way I did a survey on the views of the people in my village about hydro dam, which they are planning to build. It resulted to 90% against the dam so this show us that the people don’t want it because of its negative impacts and we use the river for washing, drinking, bathing, recreational purposes, travelling also not only the villagers use it but people from PG and other areas within the country or outside come to enjoy the relaxation given by this river and bathe in the nice, cool, crystal water of this Columbia River.

I am asking you, Mr. Jeff, to please leave this village with its beauty, leave the two reserves alone. What else do you want? You have already built a dam in San Miguel, which is enough. This Esperanza river is the Central River so do you see what we don’t want to happen to us and the rest of the villages? Honourable Coy, can you please do what you think the people deserve? Remember when you wanted their support, they were there with you always and now that you are in position you wouldn’t even bother to look at us. Let me tell you something before you make a mistake, listen to your people do what they want and you will see what they will do in return. Think about your governance because I know you want it to last for 5 years perhaps more. So pass on this concern to the rest of the branch of government. I am asking for the people of Columbia to voice up your concerns; don’t be afraid everyone has rights. As for the future generation like myself let us help the villagers to get what we all want because we are the future of our family, village, and country so let us cooperate and stop this destruction from this dam and let us stop the xateros from the  illegal harvesting of xate. Come on we need to achieve our goals by stopping this.

As for the organization and other individuals strongly supporting this concern with the people of Columbia, I encourage you to continue because your assistance is needed and appreciated.

My name is Aliana Ash. I am a high-school student at TCC and I am 16 years old and if I, at the age of 16, can see that it is a mistake then it is should be clear to adults that this dam is a mistake, with this I say, THANK YOU!!!

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San Pedro Columbia Dedicated to Their Natural Resources

The village of San Pedro Columbians of Toledo, called a meeting last Sunday, November 1st to seek answers to questions surrounding the recent permits granted to Belize Hydroelectric Development Management Company Limited (BHD) as well as Xatéros in Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve.  

Villagers from Columbia reported that Guatemalans have been extracting large amounts of  Xaté leaves from the Columbia River Forest Reserve.   It was learned at the meeting that these Guatemalans are legally employed by Belizeans who hold a permit from the Forest Department to extract Xaté.  The villagers were generally displeased that they had not been consulted on these permits and mentioned that if Xaté is to be extracted in the Reserve that buffers their communities should be the ones to benefit.

The larger focus of the meeting was on BHD’s recent permit granted despite BHD’s illegal damages they inflicted on Columbia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve from bulldozing and clearing steep slopes.  Once again, villagers were displeased that they had not been consulted on the matter and were unified against any dam development in such a pristine area.  There were also concerns about BHD’s track record from the HydroMaya dam in San Miguel and their recent illegal development.

The meeting in San Pedro Columbia was very well attended with over 150 community members, the Department of Environment, Ya’axché Conservation Trust, the Police Department, the Belize Defence Force,  and Area Representative  Honorable Juan Coy. 

While Ya’axché is not anti-development or anti-dam, they do support transparent and open planning that will fairly weigh development and conservation needs of Belize and of course follow the due process of natural resource laws.  In fact, Ya’axché is leading an effort to develop a management plan for Columbia River Forest Reserve in order to systemically plan for environmentally-friendly development.   In order for this integrated planning to take place all parties need to be open to discussion and best practices should be utilized. 

Photos courtesy of Ya’axché Connservation Trust.

BNR_Damage_assessmentDamage_Assessment_2

BNR_Damage_Assessment_3

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Solar Water Pump Installed in Medina Bank

Medina Bank solar pump installation 121

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.

Medina Bank solar Pump installation 007

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

Medina Bank solar pump installation 053

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

Medina Bank solar Pump installation 008

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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