Nearly sixteen million dollars will be spent over the next two years in what the Government is calling its most significant investment to date in the endangered Chiquibul forest and surrounding nature and forest reserves in the south and west of Belize. Much-needed grants will be handed out to two non-Governmental organizations – Ya’axche Conservation Trust and Friends for Conservation and Development – as well as the Forest Department and Belize Defence Force. At the Biltmore Hotel this afternoon, Minister with responsibility for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Doctor Omar Figueroa, detailed how and where the money will be used.
Dr. Omar Figueroa, Minister of State, Environment
“The Chiquibul Forest Investment Initiative, or the CFII as we call it, will invest over fifteen point eight million dollars in the Chiquibul Forest over the next two years. Specifically, these funds will be invested in the Vaca Forest Reserve in the north; the Chiquibul National Park; the Caracol Archaeological Reserve; the Bladen Reserve and the Columbia River Forest Reserve in the south. These protected areas, besides being adjacent to the Belize-Guatemala border, have been selected because of the high level of threats and encroachment currently ongoing. The fifteen point eight million is composed of grants and loan funds as well as direct co-financing from the recipient co-financing and leveraged funds. Of the fifteen point eight million investment, two point five million in cash will be invested by the PACT and the Environmental Management Fund for the following activities: the two construction of two additional CP’s; the construction of CP access roads to facilitate ingress and egress – so, Rafael Manzanero, you can rest assured that will happen within the next few weeks, at least it will be initiated – ranger salaries for two years for FCD, YCT and Forest Department; transportation and procurement of needed equipment for BDF, YCT, FD and FCD; training and capacity building for co-managers and regulatory agencies; communication equipment, and procurement of drones to assist with the monitoring.”
In terms of the actual grants, subject to approval of budgets, F.C.D. will get about seven hundred and seventy thousand dollars; Y.C.T., about four hundred thousand; and the Forest Department and B.D.F., about six hundred thousand dollars each.
The Chiquibul Forest, its 423 thousand acres make up almost 8% of Belize's territory - but as we've shown you many times on this newscast - it's abundant protected areas are almost a magnet for Guatemalan farmers who have run out of arable land in their own country, and for Guatemalan poachers who press into`the Chiquibul to steal Xate, timber, gold and wildlife.
Well now the effort to protect the Chiquibul is getting a major boost form the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development. It's called the Chiquibul Forests Investment Initiative - which was launched this afternoon at the Biltmore. Minister Omar Figueroa outlined the broad strokes of the effort:..
The two and a half hour launch finished this evening - and we'll tell you more about the details in tomorrow's news.