Report for the European Commission: “The development of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary as Centers for Co-management of Protected Areas.”

Salas, O. and Andrade, Valdemar (2001) Report for the European Commission: “The development of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary as Centers for Co-management of Protected Areas.”. Technical Report.

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    Abstract

    The fundamental challenge that threatens the long term biological diversity and ecological integrity of Belize’s ecosystems is the lack of people’s involvement in the sustainable development of the country’s natural resources. This deficiency in people’s participation is caused by unemployment, misconception about the importance of ecosystems’ function, feelings of isolation, and lack of stewardship. This year the Village Council Act, No. 30 of 1999 became even more relevant as villagers and village council members were trained about the details of the Act. This act allows for greater local autonomy and control of the village and their surrounding resources. Belize also experienced its second major hurricane in two years. The aftermath of Hurricane Keith proved to have some devastating effects especially on the Belize River Valley villages, which include the buffer zone communities of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. This natural disaster alone has set the project back approximately six months, but has increased the importance of one of its major components, that of the economic generation projects. During the first year, much time and energy was spent in disseminating information to the project beneficiaries, on the project itself. Although the Belize Audubon Society had worked with many of the communities before there was still some trust that had to be built before the work to put in place the mechanism to incorporate the communities’ input could be established. After preliminary consultation with the target communities, the formation of Local Advisory Committees (LAC) was deemed the best mechanism to involve the communities. The Local Advisory Committees would be comprised of a group of stakeholders from each village that buffers the two pilot sites of the Cockscomb Basin and Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuaries. After being established at the local level these LACs would then elect an officer to a Regional Advisory Committee (RAC), one for CTWS and one for CBWS. This would be the group of stakeholders that BAS would be working with directly. The RAC would have representation on the project Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The process to commence the formation of these committees has been as follows: a. The first step in this process was to physically introduce the leaders and key community members to the potential of the Cockscomb Basin and Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuaries. This was initially accomplished by sending packages of information to each village council. The information in the pack included information on the Belize Audubon Society (BAS), information on the protected area, and information on the project itself. Both the full project’s proposal and a condensed version were included in the package. b. Meetings were held with the Village Councils of the buffer zone communities, Alcaldes (the Mayan Village Elders) and any one who wanted to attend. The purpose of the meeting was to inform them as to what extent the project had been funded and what all was encapsulated in this project. Included in the discussions were the commitments necessary from the communities, in order to take full advantage of the project funds and opportunities. In some instances BAS took the opportunity to present the information at forums that were planned for community leaders. c. Following the meetings BAS and the communities jointly planned field visits for each community to have an initial opportunity to visit the protected areas to observe and internalize the potential that each area presents. This was accomplished by presenting the protected areas in a context that highlighted how other communities were taking advantage of these opportunities (See Annex A for photographs of the field visits). It was amazing to observe the community members hiking through areas of the parks where they had never been to before. For some community members in the case of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary visit, it could be observed that it was the first time that they were in a 7 boat. A part of orientation of the community members was accomplished by teaming up with LightHawk (the “Conservation Airwing”), an NGO that conducts over-flights of the protected areas. This year two of those over-flights were organized for the buffer zone communities surrounding the Cockscomb Basin and the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuaries. This was especially of interest for the village councils since they are in the middle of surveying their boundaries, which has implications for the first village council elections under the new Village Council Act. The community members also got the opportunity to physically see the kind of opportunities that exist from being so close to a protected area. The Protected Areas Directors/Project field coordinators are currently working with the communities to finalize the establishment of the Local Advisory Committees. This process should be completed by the end of March. One of the main constraints has been the lack of organization of the communities. Of course, this was somewhat expected since in the report entitled “Consultancy Report on strategies for the co-management of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary with local communities,” it was identified that in many of the buffer zone communities of the Cockscomb Basin a leader could not be clearly identified. This has also proven to be a constraint for developing the alternative income generation projects. One of the strategies utilized by BAS has been to organize all the support agencies working on one of the alternative income generation projects, in this case, the cashew industry. BAS then, has taken the following approach: a. First, BAS approached the Ministry of Agriculture in order to be included into the Fruits and Root Crops Committee. The following agencies committed to support the common approach along with BAS: the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service, BELTRAIDE, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, IICA, the Cooperatives Department and the Taiwanese Technical Mission (See Appendix B for a brief description of the before mentioned agencies). This was with the objective of seeking to get the two largest communities that produce cashews to work together. It has been recognized that local producers and processors compete among themselves. This has then put them at a disadvantage with Guatemalan exports into Belize. (Also, shared was the fact that the communities would from time to time switch partners depending on whether that partner could easily be persuaded to do exactly what the communities wanted. Hence, they would play one organization against the other.) b. Several planning meetings were held at this level to elaborate what would be the proposal to the communities. c. Next, meetings were held with the communities to get their agreement on which direction they wanted to take the industry. This resulted in the communities involved in the cashew industry agreeing into becoming incorporated into a Belize Cashew Cooperative. This would entail establishing one cashew-processing factory that would serve all the communities involved in the industry. 8 d. The next step is for the communities to form themselves into this cooperative under the guidance of the Cooperatives Department. e. Following this will be a site visit to a similar processing plant that could serve as a model. This is where some of the regional context could help since there is a cashew processing plant that is fully established and operated by a cooperative in El Salvador. The community members who visit will get the opportunity to experience a range of activities including structure and administrative management of cooperatives, plant layout and operation, and orchard management and maintenance. f. The process leading to the establishment of two other income generation activities have commenced, namely honey production and crafts production in two of the buffer zone communities surrounding the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.

    Item Type: Technical Reports (Technical Report)
    Related URLs:
      Keywords: sanctuary, wildlife, cockscomb basin, crooked tree, protected areas
      Subjects: (H) Protected Areas > (HJ) Wildlife Sanctuary
      Publication Sources: (3) Other Source > (3B) NGOs
      Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2010 10:06
      Last Modified: 20 Jan 2011 14:52
      URI: http://eprints.uberibz.org/id/eprint/41

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