Award-winning conservationist Lisel Alamilla appointed to Belize government

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) welcomes the decision of Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, to appoint Lisel Alamilla as Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development.

“We’d like to congratulate Lisel on her appointment to the Belize government,” said Mark Rose, CEO of Fauna & Flora International. “Having worked closely with Lisel over the past decade, we have seen her demonstrate time and time again an extraordinary level of ability, passion and determination. I feel sure that she will bring this to her new role, much to the benefit of Belize’s natural world and its people.”

“We look forward to exciting times ahead,” he added.

As a result of her appointment, Lisel is stepping down from her role as Executive Director of Ya’axché Conservation Trust (FFI’s partner in Belize).

Lisel has been involved in conservation for 17 years, and joined FFI as Country Director for the Belize programme in 2006, before moving to Ya’axché Conservation Trust (Ya’axché) two years later. In 2010 she was awarded the Marsh Award for Conservation Leadership, in recognition of her outstanding contribution towards FFI’s goals.

Speaking on the day of her appointment to the government, Lisel said: “Wow, what a day. Well it’s official now, I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime. What better way to serve my country?

“…I have no illusion that this will be an easy job but my hope is that I will be able to influence my cabinet colleagues to consider the environment. I am excited, I am thrilled and I am honoured.”

Shared challenges, shared success

Created in 1998, Ya’axché is a grassroots organisation working to address Belize’s immense conservation challenges, which include unsustainable hunting and habitat destruction for agricultural expansion and the timber trade.

Its community-oriented approach focuses on sustainable land-use management, advocacy and awareness, and supports socially innovative and economically viable enterprises.

Stunning view from the foothills of  Bladen Nature Reserve.

Ya’axché is also responsible for co-managing Bladen Nature Reserve (alongside the Belize Forestry Department). One of Belize’s largest and most biodiverse nature reserves, Bladen covers 40,468 hectares and is home to 37 globally threatened species and 18 endemics.

During her time at Ya’axché, Lisel has overseen the development of an integrated land management strategy for Bladen Nature Reserve and the Maya Golden Landscape – the first in Belize to bring together local communities, private businesses, governments and NGOs to consider social, economic and environmental issues at a landscape level.

Ya’axché also plays a vital role in giving a voice to those who are rarely heard in policy debates and decision-making. Across Belize, indigenous communities account for just 17% of the population, however in the Toledo District (where Ya’axché works) this proportion rises to 64%.

Under Lisel’s leadership, Ya’axché has helped to ensure that these indigenous people are able to play an active role in the conservation of their natural resources, with representatives on Ya’axché’s board and a number of community members on the staff.

Lisel’s appointment undoubtedly marks the start of a new chapter in Belizean conservation and sustainable development, but what of Ya’axché?

In Lisel’s words: “I am confident that the team I leave behind at Ya’axché is extremely competent in carrying out the organisation’s mission. I will miss them terribly; they have been my family for the last five years. My success is their success.”