Appraisal of the National Forest Policy of Belize conducted in workshop

The Forest Department through its national forest programme facility partnered up with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to conduct a workshop for the validation of the National Forest Policy of Belize. That workshop was held today at the George Price Centre. Wilber Sabido is the Chief Forest Officer at the Forest Department.

Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer, Forest Department
Today, what the Forest Department is spearheading is a discussion on the Forest Policy for Belize. It is actually a process that we had initiated about eighteen months ago and today is actually one of the first stakeholder consultations that we are having to discuss the document that has been developed and is being presented here. We have invited people from various sectors: from NGO's, communities, the industries and government stakeholders to get input as to whether or not their thematic areas and their areas of interests are actually being represented within the document that we have developed so far.

The interventions of the Department though are based on a Forest Policy that dates back to the early 1950s and Forest Legislation dating back even further. Due to the emerging forest sector issues such as overexploitation of timber and non-timber species, community participation in forest management and the need for improved forest governance, stakeholders have embarked on an initiative to develop a new Forest Policy for Belize.

Wilber Sabido
It basically lists in very simple terms the areas of interests and the areas of focus that we would want to go into in the next ten to fifteen years and really the policy ought to be something brought, something general, which then is detailed further on what we are also developing. This is an implementation framework, which basically takes those policy statements and details them in terms of strategic actions, the interventions that we need to undertake or execute within a finite period of time. In this particular instant we are talking within three to five years.

The National Forest Policy covers areas of forest conservation and protected areas management, timber production, and local income generation opportunities from forest goods and services among others.

Wilber Sabido
Yes, essentially, not only the management, but the administration of the forest and everything that is in it, including watersheds, the trees and the wild life. Central to that though, is how it is that we involve the people in the actual management of it and the stakeholders that have a stake in the forest itself and also in terms of how it is that we can actually achieve those particular objectives within the shortest period of time.

With the recent reports on the extraction of rosewood from the forests in the south, Sabido said that the policy will also address and manage against future unbridled extractions.

Wilber Sabido
The policy really ought to look at broad themes. Where a species such as Rosewood actually comes into play is with respect to us stating clearly how it is that we want Rosewood to actually be exported - in raw form or in value added. Also how do we involve the local stakeholders in the actual management of the forest and how do we involve the NGO's. In addition, what kind of research needs to go into place, research activities that needs to be done, in order for us to have better information on how to mange species such as Rosewood. So it is not again necessarily about Rosewood per say, but it hopes to address for the future; probably it may not be Rosewood later on, but some other exotic species that might be over exploited.

Stake holders present at today's workshop included PACT, The Belize Audubon Society, and TIDE, among others. The National Forest Policy will be tabled to cabinet for consideration of implementation at a later date.