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Nov 30, 2004

Toledo parks get help from Europe

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They are cutting their preferential treatment for our sugar and bananas, but the European Union is still helping Belize create a better future…in the most recent instance by assisting efforts at grass roots environmentally sound development. Jacqueline Woods has more on the E.U. initiative.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Can Caribbean countries protect their natural resources and still reap economic benefits? Yes as the Caribbean Regional Environmental Project, CREP has received funding

from the European Union to finance thirteen projects that are designed to demonstrate that sustainable development is a viable model for the region. According to CREP?s Programme Manager, Sandra Prescod, Dalrymple, there is a need for more than just talk.

Sandra Prescod, Dalrymple, Programme Manager, CREP

?There was not a lot of action, this is why the programme was conceptualized. It is in recognition that we are depending on our environment for our livelihood, so to speak, but we are not taking care of the environment so CREP was conceptualized to address this issue to develop demonstration projects to demonstrate to everyone in the region that we can have sustainable development, that we can actually exist in our environment, utilizing environmentally resources and still having economic benefits at the same time.?

Among the thirteen participating countries, Belize?s project, Payne?s Creek National Park and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve is recognized by the E.U. as a good model. The Project?s executive director, Wil Maheia credits the accomplishment to the good working relationship they have with the respective government ministries.

Wil Maheia, Executive Director, Environmental Project

? A lot of the other countries in the Caribbean does not seem to have that methodology down of how to work NGO and government together. So with the help that we get from the ministry of natural resources and fisheries, we also make our. project a successful one.?

?As you know the Port of Honduras Marine Reserve is worldly known for its fishing potential, its fly fishing potential in that area is some of the best anywhere in the world. So that brings in a lot of money. We have fishermen in Toledo district before fly fishing came into play and they used to use nets, they use to gross between four to six thousand dollars a year. Those same fishermen today have made the change and are now making between twenty and thirty thousand dollars per year.?

The environmental project will be completed in the next eighteen months. Maheia says first and foremost the people of the community must be the ones that benefit from the project?s protected areas.

Wil Maheia

?So the idea with this grant will enable us to train people to set up small projects that we can generate income.?

?So far we have done a kayaking training, fly fishing training and a small business training and with the University of Belize we are doing a livelihood skills course.?

Today, CREP hosted its seventh executive meeting in Belize. This session will run for two days and will not only include the review of the countries projects but the future plans of the Caribbean Regional Environmental programme.

Sandra Prescod

? In the thirteen participating countries there are initiatives of different sorts. There is land base and there is marine base and then there are combinations of the two and all of the initiatives are unique initiatives that can be replicated throughout the region.?

While in Belize we can boast about the progress at the Paynes Creek and the Port of Honduras Marine, Maheia says there still remains some threats to the country?s environment.

Wil Maheia

?The threat that continues is the fact that we are only between twenty-five to fifty minutes from the Guatemalan shores and the Honduran shores so the illegal fishing from time to time continues to threaten our area and natural resources for the Paynes Creek National Park and other parks in Belize; the illegal logging, but mostly it is the illegal fishing because we share water borders with Guatemala and Honduras.?

By that time, the work at Payne?s Creek National Park and The Port of Honduras Marine Reserve is completed in 2006, the project would have received a funding of just a little over a million Belize dollars. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

On Sunday, the nine executive council members traveled to Toledo to see the project first hand.

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