Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District, Belize C.A.
May 11, 2010
Introduction to COMPACT
The Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation Programme (COMPACT) aims to replicate the success of the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) at the national scale for protected landscapes including natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS) and Biosphere Reserves recognized for their Outstanding Universal Value.
COMPACT seeks to demonstrate how community‐based initiatives can significantly increase the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in the co‐management of globally significant protected areas by working to improve the livelihoods of local populations. In Belize the goal of the COMPACT Programme is to the preserve the integrity and character of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System‐World Heritage Site.
Introduction to TIDE
The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) is a non‐profit/non¬governmental organization providing leadership in the conservation of natural resources and the protection of sensitive ecosystems in the Toledo District. It was founded in 1997 as a grassroots initiative in response to the negative environmental effects of manatee poaching, illegal fishing, illegal logging, unsustainable farming practices and other unsustainable developmental activities in southern Belize. TIDE’s mission is to foster community participation in resource management and sustainable use of ecosystems within the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor of southern Belize for the benefit of present and future generations. Today, TIDE is recognized as a leader in formulating and implementing innovative programmes to mitigate habitat and biodiversity loss, focusing on providing alternative and environmentally friendly livelihood for local residents within the reserve and buffer communities. TIDE is managed by a committed Board of Directors and collaborates closely with local, national, regional and international partners. It manages a budget of over US$ 1 million and a staff of 26 full‐time and 10 part‐time employees.
Background to the Project
The geographic location of the project lies within the Maya Mountains Marine Corridor (MMMC) in southern Belize. The protected areas that TIDE co‐manages includes the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) with the Belize Fisheries Department and the Payne`s Creek National Park with the Forest Department. TIDE’s primary focus is on the coastal buffering communities of Monkey River, Punta Negra and Punta Gorda and inland communities whose activities have an impact on the watersheds that empty into Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
The Community Stewards Project entitled, “Capacity building to enhance and increase the sense of ownership in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve through a Community Stewards Programme” is built on the rationale that the threats that impact the Port Honduras Marine Reserve also affect the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site. Threats include over fishing and illegal fishing; land‐based activities of unsustainable agriculture, pollution, unsustainable logging and natural phenomena such as hurricanes and coral bleaching. The Port Honduras Marine Reserve filters upland waters through mangroves and sea grasses before the water reaches the barrier reef.
The Community Stewards Project
The goal of the Community Stewards Project was to promote effective stewardship to improve the management of Port Honduras Marine Reserve and the terrestrial ecosystems of the Payne`s Creek National Park. The Community Stewards Project focused on building local capacity, developed skills and positive attitudes in participants to support community level conservation necessary for co‐management. The project focused on increasing knowledge and capacity through a programme of information sharing, support meetings, and learning through practical experience. TIDE built the capacity of community participants to enhance and increase their sense of ownership of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
Description of Project
The Community Stewards Project was designed around two main objectives which were: (i) to build the capacity of fifteen (15) resource users to support community co¬management of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve and Payne`s Creek National Park (ii) to provide practical experiences and knowledge to create positive attitudes for sustainable management and use of resources among fifteen resource users.
Project activities included training in marine and terrestrial laws and regulations, training in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, Global Positioning System (GPS) use, effective communication skills, fire management and computer use. Additionally, stewards participated in an exchange visit to Cerro San Gil in Guatemala where they were exposed to the management of protected areas by local communities and indigenous peoples. Furthermore, TIDE’s personnel liaised with each of the stewards from the communities and had to exercise a high degree of flexibility when implementing the training scheme for twelve (12) months because some are fishermen, farmers and tour guides. Stewards participated in practical field experience sessions with TIDE personnel including the Community Education Outreach Coordinator, Marine Biologist and Rangers. This practical experience provided an opportunity for participants to evaluate other livelihood options.
Results and Successes
The TIDE/COMPACT Community Stewards Project has been described as a successful initiative to get communities and stakeholders engaged in sustainable use of the natural resources in the PHMR and safeguarding its fragile ecosystems. It can be concluded that the project has been a rewarding experience for the stewards and has brought some tangible benefits to the target communities. The exchange visit to Cerro San Gil was successful and stewards were exposed to the issues affecting the protected areas in Guatemala. TIDE and the country of Belize now has a cadre of active community stewards engaged in the daily work of educating other stakeholders on the proper use and conservation of the natural resources in the PHMR. They are able to contribute to the monitoring and data gathering efforts of TIDE and can take on leadership roles in their communities on issues related to conservation and development. The fifteen stewards are now able to influence other resources users. They have gained knowledge and skills and are able to effectively communicate with their peers.
Stewards were excited and satisfied with the implementation of the Community Stewards Project. They are confident in promoting conservation and management of natural resources in the terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The various training activities have enhanced their knowledge and skills and the stewards are more knowledgeable of the laws of Belize governing the use and protection of marine and terrestrial resources. Nonetheless, they express that they would want to see the programme activities sustained and expanded to involve the participation of other local residents.
Follow Up and Next Steps
The Community Stewards Programme is a “stepping stone for mobility in the areas of natural resources management.” (R. Frutos: Internal Participatory Evaluation Report) This community initiative engages communities and stakeholders in sustainable use of the natural resources of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve and Payne`s Creek National Park, understanding and safeguarding the fragile ecosystems that exist from the ridge to the reef in the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor. TIDE will take advantage of the current commitment and enthusiasm for the Community Stewards Project through a series of advanced educational activities that broaden the knowledge of the programme in the targeted communities
A “master class” in Catch Shares Management is being planned. Community Stewards can bridge the gap between knowledge and a depth of understanding that makes catch shares a logical step in the co‐management of Port Honduras Marine Reserve. To supplement and reinforce the “master class” five Marine Community Stewards will be selected by their peers to participate in an Exchange Visit to Punta Allen, Mexico to learn from firsthand experience how a quota based fishery is managed by a community. Open water dive training will be conducted for marine community stewards who have not received this training. Advanced Species Identification will be conducted for certified open water divers.
The GEF SGP/COMPACT programme commends TIDE for their commitment throughout the project implementation and for successfully completing the project. The COMPACT programme is liaising with TIDE on the next steps mentioned above