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The Central American country of Belize packs a big punch for its size. Despite being less than 20,000 km2, its diversity of plants and animals holds global significance. This is partly due to almost 60 per cent of the country being forested – an unusual trait for this region.
The Maya Golden Landscape, in Toledo District in southern Belize, forms one of Central America’s last unbroken stretches of broadleaf forest. The forests extend all the way from the Maya Mountains in the east to the Caribbean Sea, forming a key link in the. Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
The area hosts one of the world’s richest assemblages of biodiversity. Over 45 globally threatened species including the harpy eagle, Baird’s tapir and jaguar, rely on this critical habitat and at least 18 species can be found nowhere else on Earth.
The forests also play a crucial role in watershed protection. They preserve the quality of the water draining onto the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and provide water for local communities and large agricultural areas on the coastal plain.
The major threats for biodiversity in this area are the expansion of commercial citrus and banana farms and inappropriate agricultural practices such as burning. Wildlife hunting and extraction of timber and xaté (a type of palm used in the floral industry) also endanger Belize’s environment.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has worked with Ya’axché Conservation Trust (Ya’axché) since 1998. We have supported Ya’axché’s growth from a nascent grassroots group of two people to a nationally recognized leader in conservation and sustainable development. FFI and Ya’axché remain committed to addressing the challenges facing biodiversity conservation and social development in southern Belize.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and our local partner the Ya’axché Conservation Trust are engaged in an exciting initiative to develop a mosaic of community-owned land and conservation areas across the Maya Golden Landscape, from the forests of the Maya Mountains down to coral reefs and mangroves on the Caribbean coast.
Within this, Ya’axché manages one Private Protected Area, the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, and one State Protected Area, the Bladen Nature Reserve. Bladen is the biological crown jewel of Belize’s protected areas system and plays a vital role in preserving the quality of the water draining onto the Belize Barrier Reef.
Fauna & Flora International and the Ya’axché Conservation Trust are working to establish biodiversity-friendly community businesses in the Toledo district, one of Belize’s poorest areas.
Shade-grown organic cacao, organic vegetable production, and small-scale tourism initiatives will help to lift local communities out of poverty while ensuring the protection of the highly diverse Maya Golden Landscape. Community members are also trained in biological monitoring and participate directly in the conservation efforts.
The Ya’axché Conservation Trust, established over 10 years ago, is an organisation with substantial technical capacity and a growing impact and reputation in Belize.
As founder and partner, FFI will continue helping Ya’axché to become stronger and more sustainable, with high standards of governance, excellent leadership, operational efficiency and a bigger, more reliable revenue base. The latter is a top priority, since the management of the private reserve and Bladen Nature Reserve imply substantial fixed costs for the organisation.
From the ridges of the Maya Mountain Massif to the fresh waters that eventually reach the Mesoamerican barrier reef ecosystem, Ya’axché Conservation Trust works toward preserving the biodiversity-rich and topographically unique areas in southern Belize. Started by local Mayan leaders in 1997, and strengthened and supported by FFI since that time, Ya’axché has grown in its remit, its focus areas, and in its impact. Our approach is to promote the holistic use of the Maya Golden Landscape, protecting the ecological…Read more