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Aug 15, 2023

Integrating Conservation with Income Diversification Opportunities

Members of the Maya Centre Women’s Group are enhancing their skills and producing better quality products and offering improved services, thanks to capacity building and skills training offered by the Belize Audubon Society. The project is funded through the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme. One of the main objectives of the project is to improve the livelihoods of the residents of Maya Centre Village which is located near the entrance to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo found out how the project is going.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

On a warm Sunday morning, some members of the Maya Centre Women’s Group are hard at work at their gift shop in Maya Centre Village in the Stann Creek District. They are handcrafting artwork such as bracelets, carvings, and embroidery. All that they make is sold here, and the revenue generated goes to their families, the community, and the continued operations of the group.The thirty-four women who make up this group have mastered the skills to produce everything you see in the gift shop. They also make masa for corn tortillas.


Federica Choc

Federica Choc, Member, Maya Centre Women’s Group

We have also have the corn mill as part of the project of the Maya Centre Women’s Group and they other hand, trying to help schools and help the community on a whole. As a women’s group, that is our main goal, to lend a helping hand to the community.”


And the community of Maya Centre Village has an estimated 500 residents. It is located on the road to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is managed by the Belize Audubon Society. To reduce the pressure on the Sanctuary, the Belize Audubon Society sought funding from the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme to equip the women with much needed skills to generate revenue through alternative means.


Federica Choc

This project of giving us the go ahead of giving the sewing, and the capacity building which is entrepreneurial, marketing, how to work with our guest, how to greet our guest, how to have our guest happy while they are here with us. It is like being an ambassador to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.”


A key component of the programme is the capacity building and skills training that the women are receiving. It has strengthened their ability to produce quality items.


Lucito Ayuso

Lucito Ayuso, Community Liaison Officer, BAS

“The idea is to integrate conservation with income diversification opportunities. Currently, we are implementing a BIOPAMA project. The purpose of this project is to improve socio-economic livelihoods for the Maya Centre Women’s Group and to promote enhancements at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.”


The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of seven protected areas being managed by the Belize Audubon Society. Maya Centre Village is one of about 24 buffer communities around the protected areas. Also through the BIOPAMA programme, some infrastructural enhancements have taken place in the Sanctuary. These enhancements make visitors’ experiences better and the job of park rangers like Salustino Peck easier.


Salustino Peck

Salustino Peck, Park Ranger, BAS

“Some of the enhancements story that we have seen there is this one which is the tubing deck which was recently built by our rangers and maintenance persons and the birding deck and also the enhancement of the solar system. It’s more power and there is more appliances that we can use with it like refrigerator like food stuffs for the quests who come here overnight they bring their food stuff and are able to store it there. It is very important because it provides lighting, the refrigeration nd so since we have satelittle internet, wifi then it provides energy for that. The bird deck enhances the bird watching here, what we do. I do bird watching also here and it is gives me more of an open area to see what bird species that we have around here.”


 And visitors like Wani “Wani Watch” Arzu and Madeline Dyre enjoyed their experience.


Madeline Dyre

Madeline Dyre, Author

“I met some lovely ladies at the Maya Women’s Centre. I learned how hard it is to be talented because listen, that lady that knows how to craft things with the stone she is a force to be reckoned with. I learned about the different types of crafts that they sell in their gift store with was really good. I love that they bring not just their culture but a little bit of Belize on whatever craft they make. They had toucan and the tapir which was great. I also love the fact that these women made tamales from craft. Listen, I’ve been in Belize for my whole life. I grow up in Biscayne and I have not had fresh tamales like that. You can taste the fire heart off it.”

Wani Arzu

Wani Arzu, Influencer

“We visited the Maya Centre Women’s Group where he had the pleasure of seeing how these women actually create arts and craft and how they actually live so it was very informative and quite enjoyable experience. Moreover, we are on a hike right. We are in Cockscomb Basin currently, hiking to the waterfall. It is hot but we are having the time of our life. Thirty four members strong. The food was amazing. The women are so nice and friendly. I want to encourage everyone to come down and experience it. It was a great experience.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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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