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Dec 14, 2021

Alternative Livelihoods in Natural Park Buffer Communities

A Memorandum of Agreement was signed this morning at Saint Herman’s Blue Hole National Park where several residents who live in communities that encircle protected areas, are being assisted financially for a transition to alternative livelihoods.  Those jobs range from gardening to beekeeping and tour guiding.  It’s an effort to further safeguard these national parks from encroachment. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Horticulture and beekeeping are sources of income that are considered environmentally friendly, particularly in rural communities that fringe protected areas.  Ring Tail is a small village along the Hummingbird Highway, about a mile and a half away from St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park.  On the roadside is Red Rose Farm.


Laila Acosta, Red Rose Farms

Laila Acosta

“The initial plants started as a little hobby back when COVID began.  It started with a few plants here and there and we saw, “You know what, these were some cute plants to place in our house.”  We started with the orchid tree which is at the front, it is purple and it is not common, especially from where I’m from which is Corozal.  It was a first time for me.”


Laila Acosta’s love of exotic plants and gardening took root last year, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  During the lockdown, she concentrated her efforts on growing a variety of flowering and non-flowering plants and started a small nursery called Red Rose Gardens.  Today, that initiative is being supported by the Belize Audubon Society and the Protect Areas Conservation Trust as a form of alternative livelihood that does not threaten the natural environment surrounding the nearby cave system.  It’s part of three-prong approach being employed by both organizations.


Arvin Coc

Arvin Coc, Terrestrial Protected Areas Manager, BAS

“One looks at financial sustainability for protected areas.  The second result looks at improving our relationship and enhancing the awareness of communities buffering the protected areas that are benefiting under this project and also strengthening and improving our biodiversity research and monitoring program.”


In Maya Mopan, residents have taken up apiculture.  Together, they manage several colonies of bees from which they are producing honey on a commercial scale.


Constancio Teul, Resident, Maya Mopan Village

Constancio Teul

“It is hundred percent pure honey.  It is natural, coming from the rainforests where we live and I am the leader of our group, for now and I always tell my group every day I am getting closer to the burial ground.  That’s the reality.  So we need young people to continue this.  We have young people with us, we have women with us.  In beekeeping, it’s a business where everybody is involved, from children to grandparents, everybody is involved because in beekeeping, when you’re doing honey there is a process from the apiary to the packaging of honey.”


These are just two examples of sustainable activities that provide residents with jobs that are described as green.  As Ring Tail buffers St. Herman’s, Maya Mopan fringes the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.


Andre Marsden

Andre Marsden, Multimedia Officer, PACT

“A lot of the impacts that we see affecting Belize’s green spaces, Belize’s natural resources, come as a result of people simply finding a way to survive and that usually involves agriculture.  And because of, perhaps, the lack of availability of resources or finding new ideas that might bring them some sort of benefit, some sort of profit, usually that tends to lead to incursions within protected areas.”


As part of a million dollar undertaking by BAS and PACT, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed this morning with several individuals from Armenia, Ring Tail and Maya Mopan to provide financial assistance, via grants, to support these alternative livelihoods.


Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

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