Belize is blessed with a wealth of natural wonders and amazing people who serve to protect them – one of those people is Bartolo Teul.
Bartolo Teul of Big Falls Village, Toledo District, served in the Belize Defence Force for 15 years. During his assignment at all corners of Belize, he realized the need to protect the spectacular forests of Belize. That opportunity came from Philip Balderamos (who recently retired from the United Nations Development Program in Belize) in 1997 to establish a non-governmental organization. Ya’axché Conservation Trust was then established in 1998 to protect the newly purchased 15,000-acre Golden Stream Corridor Preserve which connects forests of the Maya Mountains to that of the coastal plains.
Bartolo’s unconventional vision for conservation led to the development of the Community Outreach & Livelihoods Program which focuses on improving current agricultural practices, as well as the economic situation of communities and the way they use land. Bartolo dedicated even his weekends to overseeing community meetings, training workshops and field visits. This close working relationship with communities has gained international recognition as an innovative conservation approach. Some notable accomplishments of the program include:
• Establishment of an agro-forestry program focused on cacao involving 120 farmers from 9 communities.
• Assistance for 145 students to attend high school in Toledo.
• Installation of 3 solar systems for primary schools of Indian Creek, Golden Stream and Medina Bank which are not connected to the electrical power grid.
• Working with 35 landless farmers to plant cacao and raising bees for honey within a 926- acre agro-forestry concession in the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve.
• Countless training sessions on topics such as cooking, business management, book-keeping, cacao farming, beekeeping, gardening, alley cropping, community planning, leadership, climate change, fire management and protected area management.
• Education of over 700 students through summer camps and field trips into 3 protected areas managed by Ya’axché.
After 18 years of working to find ‘harmony between nature and human development for the benefit of both’, he is now retired from Ya’axché, but his legacy will continue through the work of the organization. We thank Bartolo Teul, a leader, father, friend, brother, farmer, conservationist, and Belize hero, for his valuable contribution to Belize.
Ya’axché Conservation Trust