On 23rd and 24th of August 2017, the Community Baboon Sanctuary Women’s Conservation Group (CBSWCG), the recipients of a Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) Small Grant entitled “Promoting the Community Baboon Sanctuary as an Eco-Tourism Attraction,” hosted a two-day symposium under the theme “none but ourselves,” at the Natural History Museum headquarters in Bermudian Landing village
The CBSWCG, in 2013 completed its 5-year management plan that articulated key goals necessary for the proper management of the Sanctuary as well as the development of the Belize River Valley (BelRiv) area. While the CBSWCG recognises previous community development efforts by both governments and civil society organizations over the years, it also notes that most of these efforts have been unsuccessful primarily due to lack of coordination and communication amongst the entities involved as well as the high levels of duplication of efforts.
Consequently, the CBSWCG resolved to facilitate the general discussions amongst community members, civil society groups, and governmental agencies to discuss a way forward for the sustainable development of the Belize River Valley area in an effort to ensure broad participation and inclusivity. The CBSWCG leveraged the partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Local Government, and Rural Development to ensure that the symposium will appeal to all communities. The symposium was preceded by a series of community consultations to solicit the feedback of the community members. Based on the input and recommendations of the stakeholders, the CBSWCG developed concept papers on women, health, youths, sports, safe spaces, employment, tourism, agriculture, sewing, and conservation that contained recommendations for improving the quality of life of the community members. These concept papers were then orally presented to the governmental agencies during the symposium. Through this medium, the governmental agencies listened to the needs of the community. Representatives of the agencies also and made remarks and gave advise on how best the communities can access the various services within their agencies and organizations.
The symposium was attended by eight governmental organizations including Department of Rural Development, Cooperative Department, Agriculture Department, Belize Tourism Board, Forestry Department, Women’s Department and NEMO as well as a wide cross section of over 90 local leaders and community representatives including village councils, youth groups, health workers, students, teachers, farmers, entrepreneurs, tour guides, women’s group, and tourism stakeholders. The Honourable Edmund Castro, the Area Representative, was invited to give some remarks and to share his upcoming plans for the development of the Belize River Valley Area. He congratulated the CBSWCG for initiating the process and pledged his support for the continuation of the initiative.
The CBSWCG expresses its sincere appreciation to PACT for providing funding for the first Bel-Riv sustainable development symposium as well as to all the community members and agencies who participated in the engagement for such productive sessions.