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Apr 22, 2021

PG Farmers Stand Up to Fires

As the world observes Earth Day, people all over Belize are reflecting on environmental issues and challenges facing this country.  Recently, one group of farmers in southern Belize began to deal with a common threat to their livelihoods head on, by getting training in dealing with forest fires. Not only are they able to now better protect their own crops, they are also looking out for the biodiversity around them.  As the dry season approaches, the stewards of the protected areas want communities to take an active part in fire management for increased protection of the forests and the people who rely on these resources. News Five’s Andrea Polanco has the story


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

These eleven farmers of San Pedro Columbia in Toledo are learning how to responsibly manage fires in their community. Farmers like Darius Chen use fire in their farming practice but when those fires get out of control, they pose serious threats. Now, these farmers are learning important skills that will go a long way toward protecting their farms and crops.


Darius Chen

Darius Chen, Farmer/Volunteer, San Pedro Columbia

“To prevent the fire as a farmer I think it would benefit every other farmer because when the place burn down and with wild fire we destroy a lot of crops and lot of resources – that we use and that we need. I think if we continue practice it, I think it would benefit us individually as farmers.  At the end of the day, we live yah and to help other farmers it is to work hand in hand with them. I think this is a good idea and I am willing to volunteer my time to help and work along with them because as a farmer I need to deal with mine and I want them to come help me as well.”


During the training, the volunteers learned about fire fighting at the landscape level, fire behavior, and fire weather. The sessions also included a practical component with a demonstration on how to conduct a proper control burn where the participants learned how to create a fire pass and control a fire within a confined area. Additionally, participants learned how to use fire gear and equipment, as well as firefighters’ safety protocols. The two-day sessions were carried out by Ya’axche Conservation Trust.


Eugenio Ah

Eugenio Ah, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator & Fire Boss, Ya’axche Conservation Trust

“It is really having us build a network with the San Pedro Columbia leaders and the community. I am proud and I can see the passion and desire of the community and leaders planning ahead for their community to own their fire.  Yes they are pioneers for Toledo and the whole country of Belize so that they will be able to lessen the impact of fire here. Especially nowadays it is getting hotter – removing our forest cover and climate change.”


The need for this kind of training is becoming increasingly important. Year after year the villagers are faced with fires that affect their livelihoods. Just last year several weeks of fires destroyed thousands of dollars worth of corn fields and cacao farms in San Pedro Columbia and other communities. Now that the villagers know how to respond to this threat, their leaders hope there will be fewer fires and smaller losses.


Vasilico Choco

Vasilico Choco, Chairman, San Pedro Columbia

“In previous years we have been fighting fires in Columbia but last year was one of the worst scenarios we had – weeks of fires in Columbia. Looking at it as a leader, we took the steps as a council to see a way forward in fighting fires in our community.”


Amir Chen

Amir Chen, Deputy Alcalde, San Pedro Columbia

“This is the time that the corn fields are getting dry and this is the time that farmers are harvesting their crops – but last year the fire started early and some of our farmers didn’t have the chance to harvest their crops. Some farmers lost a majority of corn and then it affects the whole family.”


But when you control these fires it doesn’t just benefit the people and their properties – it benefits the wider natural resources like the forests and wildlife. And so to protect forests from uncontrolled blaze, protected areas co-manager Ya’axche Conservation Trust champions responsible fire management to help protect nature and the communities they work with.


Gustavo Requena

Gustavo Requena, Outreach & Livelihoods Director, Ya’axche Conservation Trust

“They recognize that Ya’axche has the expertise and experience in dealing with forest fires. Ya’axche’s focus has always been on an integrated landscape management and that requires that we include people, biodiversity and all the natural resources that our communities depend on.  We see that this training is going to better equip the community to be able to respond to fires that are quite prevalent in San Pedro Columbia.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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