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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Ya’axché Participates in Exchange at Guatemala

Last week Ya’axché participated in an exchange in Peten, Guatemala accompanied by community members of Medina Bank, San Antonio, Cayo and the Belize Forest Department. They met with 14 other conservationist from Guatemala and Mexico. They spent time learning about the Guatemala system of protected areas and many livelihood activities that promote more environmentally-friendly activities to farmers and cattle ranchers. The exchange was very enlightening and great to build international partnership in Mexico and Guatemala. There is a drive fro greater communication and collaboration between our Mexican and Guatemalan counterparts.

Xaté Processing Plant

Xaté Processing Plant

Points of Interest:

* There is a strong focus on Xaté as a livelihood crop in Guatemala. The exchange group visited many successful farms including two that integrated natural (or at least mostly natural) forest canopies into the life cycle of the Xaté plant; the forest maintains its integrity while transplanted Xaté thrived underneath. 1 to 2 leaves were collected every 3 – 4 months off of every plant. The owner had an integrated farm, but was making most of his money off the Xaté.

* The tough issue with Xaté is controlling and certifying that it is grown or harvested from legal areas and not illegally extracted from protected areas in Guatemala and Belize. This system still needs improvement in both countries.

* A Xaté facility in Poptun, Guatemala claimed they had been purchasing the legal Xaté from Belize. They said in the past month this has changed as a facility in Belmopan is now packaging and exporting the Xaté directly to the U.S.

* One staff member of Ya’axché believes that Belize should embrace Xaté as a crop and at the same time set up solid sustainable extraction controls and certification process. We could also look at the canopy crop idea similar to Cacao.

* Ramon Tree nut collection and production into healthy foods was also a very successful project through the Rainforest Alliance who looks to replicate efforts elsewhere.

* There is a solid current environment for partnership within the region.

This is the information Ya’axché got while participating in the exchange and we are now sharing it with you all.

Ya'aché's Protected Areas Manager and Medina Bank's Alcalde, Pablo Salam

Ya'axché's Protected Areas Manager and Medina Bank's Alcalde, Pablo Salam

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Ranger For A Day



Starting in November 2009 Ya’axché is inviting environmentally conscious tourists to become a Ranger-For-A-Day by joining an official patrol of the 15,000 acre Golden Stream Corridor Preserve. The experience promises to be an unique opportunity to play an important role in Southern Belize’s conservation efforts. Volunteers will accompany rangers in pristine areas inaccessible to the average tourist where they can expect to help out by contributing to the daily wildlife logs, recording key species of mammals and birds at the riverside transect site, and monitoring for policy infractions within the preserve. Be prepared to hone your detective skills as you learn to identify animal (tapir, armadillo) tracks and get your binoculars ready to search for toucans and spider monkeys.

Your boots will get muddy on this real life patrol but after a morning of adventure, volunteers are invited to enjoy a dip in the refreshing Golden Stream River or stick for tasty traditional Mayan meals from local village vendors and cool spots.

Open patrols are conducted based on a schedule which is available at the Ya’axché Adminstrative Office. Patrols start at the Ya’axché Field Center at 9 AM. For more information about transportation to the Field Center, see below. Plan on wearing long pants, sturdy shoes for walking (hiking boots are not required), insect repellant and don’t forget to bring water and a snack. A donation to Ya’axche is required.

If you would like to make a reservation of if you have any questions please contact us at , (+501) 722-0108), or drop by at our office at #2 Alejandro Vernon Street, Punta Gorda Town.


Bus – James Bus leaves from the bus station on the corner of King Street and Front Street just before 8 AM. You can also catch it as it drives through town on its way to the highway. Tell the bus attendant to drop you off at the Ya’axché in Golden Stream. A one-way trip to the Field Center will cost $5.00. The return bus to Punta Gorda passes by the Field Center  between 1:00 and 1:30 PM.

Car- The Field Center is located on the Southern Highway, approximately 29.5 miles north of Punta Gorda and 33.8 miles south of Independence. We are situated between the villages of Medina Bank to the north and Golden Stream to the south.

 Here is a Map on how to get to Ya’axché Conservation Trust Field:

Map showing how to get to Ya'axche Field Station

Map showing how to get to Ya'axche Field Station

If you would like more information on our scope of work and what we do: you can browse through our blog here or on our official website .

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Ya’axché Sets Its Eyes On New Geographical Focus- The Maya Golden Landscape (MGL)


Since its inception in 1998, Ya’axché has continuously grown in its remit and scope from the management of its private protected area, the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, to the comanagement of the Bladen Nature Reserve and subsequently the adoption of its Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) approach which focuses on the effective management of the whole landscapes, not just protected areas.

Initially this landscpe approach was based upon the Golden Stream Watershed. However, it was noted that this misdirected the focus of most stakeholders towards thinking solely about management, which is included in, but only a small component of ILM. Moreover, the Watershed’s boundaries did not fully encompass the focal area of Ya’axché’s work, and thereafter the term ‘Golden Stream Landscape’ was coined to demonstrate a larger area and the approach. However, Ya’axché noted that when using this, stakeholders tended to envisage a very limited area, close to the Golden Stream River or village and thereafter a new term was needed and thus, the ‘Maya Golden Landscape’ or MGL was born.


Selection of Boundaries

The boundaries of the MGL are based on the focus of Ya’axché’s work. For example, although marine issues play a minor role in Ya’axché’s work, a small coastal portion of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve has been included within the southern part of the MGL in order to reflect the interrelatedness of terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems. At the northernmost edge, the Maya Mountain Divide forms a natural border providing topographical, protected area and District boundaries. On the east, the margins are set according to ecosystem, generally avoiding the inclusion of savannahs which are generally not a priority within Ya’axché’s work. However, this has been extended to include a loop of the Bladen River branch of the Monkey River due to the influence that the river has on the Bladen Nature Reserve. The south-western boundaries of the MGL have been set to include many parcels of private lands forming the primary southern biological corridor for Belize, including those owned by Belize Lodge & Excursions, TIDE and John Spang. In the north-west, the MGL has included key biodiversity areas.


The Maya Golden Landscape

The Maya Golden Landscape (MGL)

What does this mean?

 The MGL forms the operational focal area of Ya’axché’s Integrated Landscape Management. Ya’axché aims to accomplish its goals of sustainable development in partnership with local land managers, including the Government of Belize, private landowners, communities and organizations.

It is important to note that this does not mean that Ya’axché is:

1.) trying to buy or take over community, private or any other land within the MGL   

2.) trying to control any person, community or organization within the MGL

3.) mandated to manage the area

4.) will not conduct activities outside of this area if it needs to.


How does this relate to other conceptual geographical areas?

The Maya Golden Landscape overlaps with parts of a number of other conceptual geographical areas.

* Maya Mountain Massif (MMM): As identified within the National Protected areas Policy and System Pln, the MMM is one of the three most important blocks of protected areas within reserves and the Bladen Nature Reserve. Although the MMM’s geographical scope is larger than the MGL, ILM within the MGL provides a larger thematic scope, covering the entire gamet of sustainable development of the area.

* Maya Mountain Marine Corridor (MMMC): Consisting of the Rio Grande, Middle, Golden Stream, Deep River, Punta Ycacos and Monkey River watersheds. the MMMC is an important concept coined by the Belize Center for Environmental Studies. This area now forms the focus of TIDE’s work, particularly as it relates to effective watershed mangement and the management of their three main programmes: Ya’axché works in close partnership with TIDE and is interested in ensuring the effective Conservation of the area’s biodiversity through the MMMC Conservation Action Strategy. Similarly, as with the MMM, efforts to manage the geographically larger MMMC are almost exclusively based on the conservation of biodiversity, as opposed to the thematically more diverse MGL’s ILM. An important point to note as well is that, although the MMMC contains almost all of the MGL, the north-western corner of the latter contaiing a very important biodiversity area lies outside of the MMMC.

* Golden Stream Watershed (GSW): This area is limited to the modelled hydrological boundaries of the Golden Stream Watershed, which are contained entirely within the MGL. As discussed in the rationale section, this concentrated stakeholder opinion on watershed management, rather than (integrated) landscape management.

* Golden Stream Landscape (GSL): See rationale for a discussion for why the GSL was changed to MGL.

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Unlawful Development Threatens Belize’s Core Protected Areas

Cleared Area in Bladen Nature Reserve

A now well-established pattern of disregard for Belizean protected area law and value has reached an intolerable height in southern Belize.  The integrity of Belize’s crown jewel of protected areas and some of its most virgin jungle, Bladen Nature Reserve, has been abused in a manner similar to recent events at Victoria’s Peak in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and in South Water Caye Marine Reserve. The latter of which has ultimately left Belize’s Barrier Reef on the “List of World Heritage in Danger”.  Unplanned and unlawful development that benefits the few yet disregards the interest of local communities and the natural environment of Belize is a prevailing threat to this country’s comparative advantage of pristine protected areas.

Last week the construction of a new road in Colombia River Forest Reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve by Hydro Maya Inc. was halted as the company did not have necessary permits from the Forest Department or Ministry of Natural Resources to conduct such activities. The company’s plans include the construction of a hydro-power dam on the Central River within Bladen Nature Reserve, more than 15 miles into protected areas lands.  The proper procedure of applying for permit had not been followed.

Significant damage has already been inflicted on Bladen Nature Reserve, where the planned road had been marked and roughly three acres were cleared for the construction of three thatch buildings and a helicopter landing zone.  Evidence along the new road proves that illegal hunters have already taken advantage of improved access to the bountiful yet delicate wildlife of the reserve.  In a four day patrol with the Belize Defence Force, the Belize Forest Department and Ya’axché Conservation Trust recorded  evidence of a diversity of wildlife including jaguar, great curassow and howler monkey troops as well as unexcavated Maya ruins along the new road or in its path.  Also of note on the patrol was evidence of Guatemalan Xateros more than 17 kilometres into Belize.

Bladen Nature Reserve is protected at the highest level by Belizean Law.  Its role in the National Protected Area System is of pure conservation, research and education for the benefit of all Belizeans.    The upper Bladen watershed in the east and the Central River in the west, of the Nature Reserve, support a large extent of old-growth, primary tropical broadleaf forest, which helps safeguard the provision of clean water to many villages in Toledo.  The Nature Reserve also encompasses many unique vegetation assemblages, including upper-elevation and limestone hill forest – two of the most unique and significant threatened ecosystems of Central America.

The lack of respect for due process, community input and protected area law has become an all too common exploit of venture capitalists in Belize.  While the Toledo West Representative, Hon. Juan Coy, has keen interest in the construction of this proposed hydro dam, few other stakeholders, including the communities of San Miguel and San Pedro Colombia and the Belize Forest Department, have been consulted and as such they are unaware of the illegal activities which have been occurring over the past seven weeks.

Efforts to undermine the integrity of Bladen, and the processes and systems that protect Belize’s natural and cultural resources must be dealt with swiftly in order to curb this current pattern of unlawful and poorly planned development.

Hydro Maya Bulldozer in Forest Reserve

Hydro Maya Bulldozer in Forest Reserve

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Amphibian Research in Bladen Nature Reserve

wildtracks_logo_narrowWe are pleased to report on some fascinating research that has taken place within Bladen Nature Reserve.  A recent trip by Paul Walker of Wildtracks uncovered some very interesting findings about the amphibian species (particularly frog) of Belize’s “crown jewel” of protected areas.

As it turns out, all vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered amphibians in Belize occur within the Maya Mountain Massif, of which Bladen Nature Reserve (BNR) forms part of a core protection zone.

New species?

New species?

The researchers uncovered what could likely be new species of rain forest amphibians.  According to Mr. Walker, the toad shares “features of the rainforest toad, as well as those of the large-crested toad that was recently found in Belize.” Current DNA analysis will determine whether or not the species is new to science.

New tree frog eggs?

New tree frog eggs?

At higher altitudes (~1000 m) along the main divide that forms the northern boundary of BNR the group discovered tree frog eggs which they suspect belong to a species of fringe-limbed tree frog.  If that’s true, “these eggs and the tadpoles that hatched from them will represent the first found for this species,” says Mr. Walker.

On a sadder note however, the group noticed undeniable signs of chytrid fungus, which cause a particularly nasty ailment affecting these species.  The fungus has been found in all other assessments in the Maya Mountain Massif and it is likely BNR has not gone unaffected.  The presence of two cane toads with missing digits all but confirmed this sad presumption.

Chytridiomycota on cane toad

Chytridiomycota on cane toad

This research is part of a nation-wide assessment effort under the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, being implemented by Conservation International.  Research teams visit specific sites to determine the relative abundance and health of amphibian species, as well as assess potential threats to their well being.

Quebrada de Oro-BNR-Final (Medium)The BNR assessment was conducted up the Quebrada de Oro branch of the Bladen River, right up to the Main Divide that forms the backbone of the 1.28 million acres of the Maya Mountains Massif. As the primary investigator, Paul Walker and team members Valentino Tzub, Rafael Tzub and Juan Ischim (all from San Jose, Toledo) conducted the rapid assessment in late January, guided by Dr. Steven Brewer who has conducted extensive botanical research in Bladen for several years. The team was accompanied by Ya’axche Protected Areas Manager, Nathaniel Miller, and two Ya’axche rangers.

For more reading, use the following link to read about how Agrochemical Contamination in Belize’s Maya Mountains [is] a Risk to Amphibians and Humans.

All photo credits: Paul Walker, Wildtracks
Map credit: Ya’axche

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Endangered Species Day – Looking at the Baird’s Tapir

In celebration of Endangered Species Day, we want to introduce you to an endangered species found in our protected areas – the Baird’s Tapir.

Tapir caught on motion-activated camera in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve

Tapir caught on motion-activated camera in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (Photo: Ya'axche)

The Baird’s tapir is a large, herbivorous mammal found in the woodlands of Central America.  It is one of three tapir species found in the Americas (there is an additional species found in Malaysia) and the largest land mammal in Central America.

Tapirs have a distinctive prehensile nose which it uses to pick leaves and fruit.  Because of this appendage they appear to be an odd cross between a pig and an elephant, though they are more closely related to horses and rhinoceroses.

Globally they are considered an endangered species, though their status is a little stronger in Belize.  This is because their main threats – habitat destruction and hunting – are more mild in Belize.  With a relatively low human population and about 40% of its landmass under protection, Belize is better equipped than other Central American nations to maintain the large herbivore.  But that’s not to say more can’t be done.  Ongoing threats to the forests of Belize will continue to affect the tapir as agricultural and commercial logging slowly fragment its natural habitat.

A young Baird's tapir

A young Baird's tapir

Most reports of tapir in our protected areas come from rangers who have either heard an animal at night, or seen fresh tracks in the mornings.  Almost exclusively this happens near rivers and streams.

**  Interestingly, a group of tapir is not called a herd, it is called a candle.

(Baby tapir photo creditvia)

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