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Dec 13, 2016

Chiquibul Initiative Quartet Get Big Cheques

Two point two-eight million dollars were disbursed today for the conservation and protection of natural reserves: Chiquibul, Vaca, Colombia and Bladen Forests.  PACT is the donor agency that is contributing toward a larger initiative called the Chiquibul Forest Investment Initiative.  Organizations that work in the area such as the Friends for Conservation and Development, received the funding today. News Five’s Duane Moody reports. 

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The Chiquibul Forest Investment Initiative is defined as the Government of Belize’s unprecedented and innovative financial initiative for the conservation and protection of our natural resources. This project which will see an overall fifteen million dollars invested in the environment, today saw an initial two point two-eight million dollars split among four organization that work within the vast area of the Chiquibul Forest. Friends for Conservation and Development, the Ya’axche Conservation Trust, the Belize Defense Force and the Belize Forest Department were the recipients for the two-year grants. According to Doctor Colin Young, collectively, the recipients bear the task of safeguarding the Chiquibul, Vaca, Colombia and Bladen Forests.

 

Colin Young

Dr. Colin Young, C.E.O., Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment & Sustainable Development

“All Belizeans know that the Chiquibul is a very vulnerable and very dangerous area and these organizations work there on a daily basis. The cost of doing that work is extremely expensive and so this initiative, unprecedented in its scale, represents the single largest investment by any government in the Chiquibul. It is part of a larger investment which is fifteen million. And so for FCD and Ya’axche, this initiative pays for the entire salary of their ranger force for two full years. It also allows greater monitoring and enforcement so one of the key things about protected areas management of this area is having boots on the ground and so this is what this initiative does. But it also uses some science in the sense of how can we enforce and monitor in a smarter way.”

 

Incursions by illegal Guatemalans inside the Chiquibul have been a perennial problem that threatens conservation efforts in the forest. For some time now, co-managers have been gathering data, mapping the continuous pillaging and criminal activities within Belizean territory. The grant of seven hundred and seventy thousand dollars to FCD will see the installation of two conservation posts and an increase of rangers.

 

Raphael Manzanero

Raphael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD

“In terms of the ranger activity on the ground in terms of the monitoring which we call environmental law and monitoring which is part of our program….the funding should provide us with putting men on the ground in terms of those new conservation posts accompanied by the B.D.F. and the police. And so the posts will be used for putting the rangers in there and to support rangers across the other conservation posts. A third component of the funds is to be used in Vaca Forest Reserve; that’s an area that we have not been operating in as such in terms of the Chiquibul. We have done some incipient works there before but this particular funding is now going to provide us to get data in terms of what Vaca is all about and also to be able to work with the farmers from Benque Viejo, Arenal and Succotz. So that’s where we are looking at sustainable livelihoods. We are hoping that we are going to be able to develop a model on how communities can be a part of forest management.”

 

Patrolling the Chiquibul is not without danger. As has been reported, there have been several encounters between armed intruders and joint Belizean patrols in the forest. The B.D.F. for years has provided support to the rangers and work in manning the borders, arresting the criminal activities and threats. Brigadier General Jones says that the soldiers will now have the tools to carry out its mandate of protecting our resources – human and otherwise.

 

David Jones

Brig. Gen. David Jones, Commander, B.D.F.

“These funds will be used to buy equipment in particular they are going to purchase three land rovers. If we don’t get the land rovers, we will have to go with some other Toyota vehicle that can work in such terrain. We are also going to purchase the radio equipment, we are going to purchase GPS equipment, compasses, the beds, furniture, tools and all that is needed because there are going to two conservation posts. One will be at Cebada and one will be at Caballo so we are going to completely outfit those two buildings with the necessary furniture and equipment for the soldiers to do their patrols. We are going to conduct our patrols and work with our partners to ensure that we prevent the degradation of our natural resources and preserve and conserve what we have over on our side.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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