Belizean fishers and coastal dwellers poised to receive support to combat climate change

The coastal zones and fisheries sector of Belize are the lifeblood for many of its people. They not only provide food and homes but are vital for the livelihoods of many fishers and communities; however, they remain threatened by climate change. Financing to better support the adaptation and resilience towards climate change impacts remains a crucial endeavour.

In this vein, the Green Climate Fund approved a 1.2 million Belize Dollars grant for the implementation of a project entitled "Enhancing adaptation planning and increasing climate resilience in the coastal zone and fisheries sector of Belize". The project is being implemented by various agencies of the Government of Belize and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

On May 12, over 60 key stakeholders, experts and policy makers from the coastal zone and fisheries sector across the country gathered to learn more about this project, climate finance and the Green Climate Fund, during a Stakeholder Engagement Workshop. Joining the workshop were representatives from government ministries, quasi-governmental institutions, marine reserves, conservations trust, fishermen associations, fishermen cooperatives, academia, regionals organization, non-government organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector and indigenous communities.

The Project Lead Focal Point and Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation, Ms. Kennedy Carillo mentioned that "Stakeholder engagement improves project performance and impact by enhancing ownership and accountability; addressing the social and economic needs of those most affected; building partnerships among entities and stakeholders; and harnessing the skills, experiences and knowledge of a wide range of stakeholders, such as civil society organizations (CS0s), community and local groups, and the private sector. She added that "the collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development and FAO highlights our commitment to ensuring the successful execution for the greater benefit of the coastal communities and by extension the entire country of Belize".

The Stakeholder Engagement Workshop was one of the activities under the project to share with and learn from stakeholders some of the activities and efforts that can help to build the resilience of the fisheries sector. Funds from the project will be used to develop an effective stakeholder engagement and coordination mechanism, a coastal zone and fisheries gender strategy, a vulnerability and livelihood assessment and a sustainable fisheries, technology, and value chain analysis. Which will further improve the coastal zone and fisheries data and information systems related to climate change. With the main output being a national adaptation plan and the submission of a concept note to the GCF Secretariat.

Mr. Norman Castillo from the Hopkins Fishermen Association remarked that "the climate change effects on coral and sea beds are visible. There is also a shortage of marine products that fishermen make a living from." He emphasized that "The Hopkins Fishermen Associate stand firms in combating climate change. These workshops can provide a platform for us to voice our opinions in combating the effects of climate change".

These sentiments were echoed by Dr. Osmond Martinez, Chief Executive Officer and National Designated Authority (NDA) within the Ministry of Economic Development who indicated that "the ministry is committed to the successful implementation of this project along with our partners given the importance of the Coastal Zone and Fisheries sector to the national economy for employment generation".

By the end of the workshop a Project Steering Committee was formed, a project work plan validated and the role and responsibilities of relevant organizations involved in the project were highlighted. The next step is to develop a stakeholder directory and formulation of a terms of reference for a stakeholder engagement mechanism. The stakeholders' input and discussion are to be facilitated by two-one day consultations.

Belize's National Designated Authority to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment, the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation (MBECA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation for Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize were the key organizers for the workshop held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina, Belize City, Belize C.A.