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Feb 8, 2023

Belize Host Regional Land Degradation A.G.M.

Land degradation is where lands deteriorate or lose their productive capacity due to unsustainable land-use practices. It is a pressing issue for both Latin America and the Caribbean. It is estimated that about three hundred million hectares of land within both regions are considered degraded—the main culprit – large-scale agriculture. So as the global demand for food increases, the situation can become more alarming in this region. That is why government representatives from both Latin America & the Caribbean have been meeting annually to devise a strategy for reforestation and the protection of the forest. This year, that annual meeting is being held in Belize. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Degraded lands are defined as lands that have lost some degree of their natural productivity through human activity. In 2016, the World Resource Institute found that degraded lands account for over twenty percent of agricultural and forest lands in Latin America and the Caribbean. The institute further discovered that some three hundred million hectares of the region’s forests are considered degraded, and over three hundred and fifty million hectares are classified as deforested.


Orlando Habet

Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development 

“The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization reports that the world has lost one third of its forest, an area twice the size of the United States. Global deforestation reached its peak in the 1980s. During that decade, one hundred and fifty million hectares were lost, an area half the size of India. Twenty-seven percent of forest lost result from commodity driven deforestation, cutting down forest to grow crops, such as soy, palm oil, cocoa, to raise livestock on pastures and mining operations. Urbanization the other driver of deforestation accounts for just six percent. This clearly shows that if the commodities, the food and product we buy, and not where we live, that has the biggest impact on global land use.”

Country leaders, private investors, and technical partners from Latin America and the Caribbean have convened in Ambergris Caye, Belize, to discuss the necessary changes to the dynamics of land degradation. Initiative 20/20, a country-led effort under the United Nations’ Decade of Ecosystem Restoration agenda, seeks to restore and protect three hundred and fifty million hectares of forest in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030.


Sean Dewitt

Sean Dewitt,  Director, Global Restoration Initiative, World Resources Institute (WRI)

We are blessed to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We could be snorkeling, scuba diving, sip lining, swimming, but we are not. We are here. And I think there is two reasons we are here. The first reason is that we care. And we use that word a lot. I care about something. It is really one of the most important words in human society. We really care about these ecosystems, protecting them, restoring them, producing food more sustainably on them. We deeply care about the people who live in this ecosystem. The second reason is that we know there is a better way.”


While Initiative 20/20 requires each country across the two regions to do its part in restoring its forests, all these countries must agree that there will be a coordinated effort towards achieving that goal. Coordination may include sharing technical expertise, information, data, and in some cases, financing. Yaxche Conservation Trust is among the organizations leading the charge in Belize. Today the Trust introduced its Resorting Degraded Lands within Key Areas of the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve.


Marvin Vasquez

Marvin Vasquez – Representative, Ya’axche Conservation Trust 

We are doing restoration in five hundred hectares of degraded lands within the protected reserve and surrounding buffer zones. WE are aiming to work with fifty farmer beneficiaries and twenty five percent of this needs to be women participating for inclusive participation. These training topics involve soil care, propagation techniques, restoration techniques and farming best practices and also subsistence farming. The project aims to distribute thirty five thousand four hundred sapling. Out of that we have achieved about sixty four percent that has already been grown and delivered to the farmers for planting. Along with all the science, community outreach and protected area management work, we have an education campaign and are creating education outreach awareness that we already started working.”


Launched in 2014, it is the first time in the history of regional meetings surrounding Initiative 20/20 and land degradation that a head of state was present. Prime Minister John Briceño gave the keynote address at this morning’s opening ceremony. Following his speech, PM Briceño discussed efforts within Belize.


John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

I am sure you could find examples of where we have been bad at it and when it comes to agriculture the large scale agriculture we have. We have been having that kind of discussion in Cabinet to work with agricultural farmers to ensure that they do not clean a hundred percent of the land, that they could set aside some parcels of land to be able to protect the land, because when you remove all the trees and vegetation, then you have soil runoffs and that leads to degradation, desertification of the area, and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen. But, Belize is a good example where more and more our farmers and even people in the NGO community, people in tourism understand the importance of protecting our land. Many countries in Belize come to see the work we are doing. How is it that we are planting mangrove, and seaweed? These are all pilot projects we are starting, with the help of technical advice from the UN. But, it is more and indigenous home grown plan that we are doing.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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