San Ignacio Town is getting a $1.6 million dollar multi-purpose community center. This is through a partnership between the Governments of Italy and Belize and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center. It will be designed to incorporate renewable energy in order to stay in operation during a hurricane or other disasters. It also incorporates an independently powered hybrid grid-connected PV renewable energy system; a rainwater storage system; and an emergency communication system. Groundbreaking took place on Wednesday in the Twin Towns, where 5C’s executive director Dr. Kenrick Leslie spoke of the genesis of the project. We also hear from area representative and environment minister Dr. Omar Figueroa on the benefits to Cayo residents.

Hon. Dr. Omar Figueroa - Area Rep, Cayo North
"Today we have the actual ground breaking for the Cayo North resource and resiliency center. It's a project that we conceived several years ago and that we actively started to pursue funding for the project. It's a complete grant funded project, so the government of Belize, the taxpayers do not have to pay a single dollar, it's a gift from the government and the people of Italy and it's through a window of climate change collaboration. You know Belize is part of a group that's referred to as the small island developing states and even though we contribute minimally, in fact negligibly to the problem that is climate change, we are disproportionately affected. Just last night in San Ignacio you saw very intense storm come for a very brief period of time and it is these kinds of events that we will see increase intensity and in frequency. We've seen over the past few years and we will keep on seeing that. So what happened last night is we had this enormous amount of water come down and starts flooding the entire area. We start to see this quite a lot. So Belize, we need to start thinking about adapting to these impacts of climate change and this building actually represents one step forward in what is the national plan to really enhance our own adaptation. The building will be able to in times of disasters, actually house people. I think the capacity will close to about 400 people that can be housed here. The building will also serve as the operational headquarters for NEMO. It will also have additional office spaces perhaps for other government departments. It will also have an indoor basketball facility, so that the community can make use of it."

Dr. Kenrick Leslie - Exec. Dir, CCCCC
"Italy has never turned its back from the center ever since. Over that time, they have come back time and time again to find out how they can support our region through 5 Cs and in 2015, they came up with another program where they would make the center an institution to help guide the countries in putting projects together that would help them address the issues of our vulnerability to climate change. This project today is as a result of that program that was signed in December of 2015."

Representing Italy was Robert Natali, the special envoy for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project is entitled “Reducing the Carbon Footprint of San Ignacio and Five Surrounding Villages in the Cayo District,. It will also feature replacing the street lights in San Ignacio Town and immediate adjacent villages.

Channel 7