Archive for Public Policy and Advocacy

Ya’axché’s Annual Stakeholder Meeting

Annual Stakeholders Meeting 2009

Last week Saturday 12th of December 2009 Ya’axché celebrated the closing of its 11th year by holding its Annual Stakeholder  Meeting. The meeting offers another opportunity for Ya’axché   to communicate with its most important stakeholders – the communities that buffer the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and Bladen Nature Reserve. Representatives from Medina Bank, Trio, Tambran, Golden Stream, Indian Creek, Big Falls, San Miguel, Silver Creek, Punta Gorda, Jacintoville and Elridge Village all attended the event making for a great mix of people and personalities.  The general purpose of the meeting was to present to stakeholders the work that Ya’axché has done for the year of 2009 and get feedback for improvement in 2010.

Children playing Musical Chairs

Ya’axché first introduced its program areas: Sustainable Land-use Management, Community Outreach and Livelihoods, Advocacy, Institutional Governance and Management. Accomplishments   in protected area management and research and monitoring were the focus of the Sustainable Land-use discussion. The Community Outreach and Livelihoods discussion brought up the fact that Ya’axché is now working with over 90 farmers in organic, forest-friendly agriculture, in addition to assisting students with high school. The Advocacy program has had a busy year working  with the Toledo Healthy Forest Initiative (THFI), APAMO and BAPPA. The Institutional Governance and Management Program was introduced with a discussion about the Board of Directors- those present were introduced: Alphonso Cal, Barbara Locke, Victor Ical, and President Valentino Shal. The Board is now open to community representatives in Trio and Bladen villages. Trio will have a representative in 2010.

Ya'axché Rangers

The entire Ya’axché staff was introduced to the public as well. There was good discussion on the pressing issues of our time including the Hydro Dam, Illegal Xatéros, water pollution and ways to improve relationship with communities.

Lastly the Financial Statement of 2009 was presented.

After the meeting Ya’axché invited the guests for a traditional Mayan lunch. It was a joyous time of the year and Ya’axché sure did spread a Christmas spirit. The kids also had fun games organized by Ya’axché Volunteers.

It has been a very successful year for Ya’axché Conservation Trust and Ya’axché thanks everyone who have been instrumental in the success of our work. Thanks to All.

Representatives having Lunch

To download Ya’axché’s 2009 Annual Report Click on the following link:


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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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Different Policies, Different Results

A recent column by the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman highlighted the benefits when…

  1. A government realizes the need to preserve its natural resources, and
  2. Structures itself to most effectively manage it.

Realizing the advantages of having so much biodiversity, and acknowledging the risks that there-to-fore development could place on it, the government of Costa Rica made two ground breaking changes that are paying dividends today.

  1. Instituted a “payment for environmental services” fee associated with the use or depletion of natural resources.
  2. Put control of energy and all natural resources within one government ministry.
Working Together with ILM

Working Together with ILM

That second point is a fine example of Integrated Landscape Management in action. The upside to development and the sacrifices that go into achieving it are borne and shared by many, many stakeholders. Weighing these costs and benefits should then be done on a holistic level. The opposite – putting energy development under one department and conservation under another – can pit two government offices against each other.  When conflict arises it appears as though money (or energy development) must come at the sake of environmental integrity and conservation.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and Costa Rica has realized this.

Belize’s own Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment plays a similar role, but has not achieved the same results.  According to the article, 95% of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources (including hydro, which is seen as environmentally detrimental by many Belizeans).  In contrast, most of Belize’s energy comes from Mexico which uses 6% renewables.  Costa Rica has a thriving  eco-tourism market, but Belize – with its barrier reef and English as an official language – has not been able to keep pace with roughly the same amount of protected areas.  Belize brings in $300 million per year in tourism revenue vs $2.2 billion in Costa Rica.  Belize has 2.6 million acres of protected areas vs 3.2 million acres in Costa Rica.



So what’s the difference?  Governmental leadership and integration – successful programs must have top-level support in order to work, and they must simultaneously address all stakeholders’ needs.

So what’s missing in Belize?  Is it vision, or the collective will to act on this opportunity?

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Proposed Legislation Strengthens Role of Private Protected Areas

The Ya’axché Conservation Trust, with support from the Belize Association of Private Protected Areas (BAPPA) and with the participation of the Association of Private Area Management Organizations (APAMO) and the National Protected Areas Commission (NPAC), finalized two pieces of proposed legislation:

  • National Park Systems (Amendment) Act
  • Conservation Covenant Act

The first bill intends to amend Chapter 215 of the National Park Systems Act (PDF) aims to give legal recognitions to private protected areas (PPAs). The recognition of PPAs in instrumental in filling the gaps within the Belizean national park system. Under this amendment PPAs can be designated either a wildlife sanctuary or a national park with the same rules and restrictions that are place on the public protected areas of the same category (PDF of Protected Area Categories). The designation will be made upon the recommendation of the national authority of protected areas management, and will have to meet strict criteria.

The second piece of proposed legislation, the Conservation Covenant Act, will facilitate private initiatives for land owners to restrict the use of their lands to conservation purposes only, and will provide specific incentives to those individuals with lands along rivers and watersheds.

The campaign for political and legislative support to enact these new laws will be lead by BAPPA.

Ya’axché’s Executive Director, Ms. Lisel Alamilla played a leadership role in coordinating these legislative proposals.

Funding for the development of this proposed legislation was made available via the UNDP/GEF project, Integrating Protected Area and Landscape Management in the Golden Stream Watershed, and is being implemented by Ya’axche’ Conservation Trust and our long-standing partner Fauna & Flora International.

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Our National Policy Advocacy Work – Amending the National Park Systems Act

Recently our Executive Director, Ms. Lisel Alamilla, spent time in the Belizean capital of Belmopan developing provisions for potentially amending the National Park Systems Act.

The issue is that private protected areas, like our Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (15,000 acres connecting the mountains to the sea along the Golden Stream River) do not have the same legal status as other nationally (governmentally) protected areas.  To date there exists a “gentleman’s agreement” between the government and the owners of these lands to treat them as national parks, but no legal statute to back that up.  In regards to covenant acts (similar to an American conservation easement) this is a huge difference.  Our goal, and the goal of our partners, is to integrate private protected areas into the national park system.  This desire was documented in the jointly-developed Belize National Protected Areas System Plan (PDF Summary).


So Ya’axche took the lead by hiring the prominent counsel Ms. Magali Marin-Young to draft the provisions for ammendment.  (Ms. Marin-Young is also advocating against a constitutional amendment giving the government unprecedented autonomy in land rights.  Read the coverage here.)  Having drafted the initial documentation, Ya’axche has submitted it for review and endorsement by the Belize Association of Private Protected Areas (BAPPA).  With their approval the provisions will be presented to the government and lobbied.

undp_logoYa’axche’s involvement couldn’t have happened without the support it received from a United Nations Development Plan project grant.  The three-year project, titled “Integrating Protected Area and Landscape Management in the Golden Stream Watershed,” supports a wide range of activities including:

  1. The development of managment plans for four protected areas in the Golden Stream Watershed
  2. A development strategy for the watershed area that strengthens its social and financial sustainability
  3. Clarification of the legislative environment that affects private protected areas
  4. Providing a blueprint for effective management for authorities and other stakeholders to follow, effectively consolidating the National Park Areas System

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Forestry Concessions in the Columbia River Forest Reserve

Logging in the Jungle

Logging in the Jungle

A recent series of forestry concessions given out by the Belizean government has prompted a public outcry by the Toledo Healthy Forest Initiative (THFI), a partner of Ya’axche.

THFI has requested a meeting with Gaspar Vega, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, to take place this week.  More news to come as events transpire.

Today the THFI will broadcast the following press release in order to inform the public and media of its intent:

Punta Gorda – In 2004 the Forest Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, in response to the outcry of concerned citizens, organizations and other resource users about the rampant unsustainable logging, established the Toledo Healthy Forest Initiative (THFI). The purpose of THFI was to advance sustainable management of Toledo’s natural resources, particularly forest management.

bz-pam-columbia-river-forest-reserveOver the last four years THFI has made significant progress with communities and other resources users towards appreciating the importance of adopting sustainable logging practices. To date THFI has collaborated with the Forest Department to implement a consultative process in the issuance of short –term concessions and, through its members has developed two community-based forest management plans for Conejo and Santa Teresa – a first for Belize. Additionally, a rapid forest resource assessment of Toledo’s forests has been completed. Currently, THFI is playing a role in formulating an integrated management plan for the 150,000 acre Colombia River Forest Reserve, in order to develop mechanisms for communities to sustainably manage and benefit from the forest reserve.

Although much has been achieved there exists a high risk that these advancements will be undone, as evident by the recent concessions granted in Colombia River Forest Reserve and Maya Mountain North. The members of THFI call on government to reconsider these licenses and to continue to support the opportunity to have resource users adopt and benefit from the sustainable management of our resources.

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