Archive for Resources

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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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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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.

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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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