7news was in Poptun Guatemala last week Friday for the signing of a bi-national agreement to combat illegal logging in the Chiquibul – that is, the Montanas Mayas Chiquibul on the Guatemalan side and the Chiquibul Forest on the Belize side. It’s a unique agreement because it demonstrates how conservationists are forging common ground across a shared ecosystem when diplomats at the state level have a hard time even settling on a date for a joint referendum. After that agreement was signed, the Friends for Conservation and Development headed a meeting where they taught their Guatemalan counterparts who to embark on an environmental education programme to save the Chiquibul. This took place in Poptun, as well and our camera was there for this rare bi-national strategy session:

Jules Vasquez reporting
The meeting was to promote Bi-National Community Involvement through Environmental Education Efforts. It was a small, consultative session between the Friends for Conservation and Development and its Guatemalan counterparts.

There was a lively exchange of information with input from both sides, but really FCD was leading the session, with executive director Rafael Manzanero explaining their environmental educational initiatives.

Followed by FCD’s two environmental educators making PowerPoint presentations explaining what they are doing to educate border communities using what’s known as the PRIDE system of environmental education.

The Guatemalan conversation and community groups paid keen attention to the models developed and techniques honed by the FCD educators including Janet - a Guatemalan who works for the FCD in Melchor and the border communities, doing environmental education for the Chiquibul and its water resource shared by both countries.

Now these Guatemalan organizations hope to spread that model to communities in southern Peten

Rafael Manzanero - Executive Director, FCD
"I would have wished that some of this would have started many years but that was not really so. So even though the side of the Maya Mountains, Chiquibul in Guatemala is highly fragmented, their are still some hope even among these people and collegues here. They sawy that even though there are some small fragments, we still can do something - which is highly positive. There is a gateway to further collaborate and do the work of partnerships and levels of cooperation. Belize can't really do this thing alone, in fact apart from the counter parts here - it also requires even much more 'friends' in terms of other allies who can become part of this."

The shared problems and the shared resources in the Chiquibul on both sides of the border is the reason for these environmental education groups to come together:

Rafael Manzanero
"By making more people aware along the zone and the communities living there, about the real harsh reality - I think a lot of it is really the environmental movement. It is from that horizon that it appears - there are environmentalist in Guatemala just like in Belize. What I think we were lucky was to identify those particular main actors on the ground."

FCD spearheads a number of environmental programmes in Melchor – particularly to preserve waterways.

Channel 7