General — 13 May 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

Late this evening, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture issued an Eviction Notice/Cease and Desist Order via a press release which specifically said that, in respect of persons who are currently occupying the Harmonyville Development Area, it is “unlawful to clear and occupy any land designated as a Buffer Zone Area (Reserve).”

The Ministry of Natural Resources said that it was “subsequently providing an ultimatum to those persons to clear the area or face the full extent of the law.”

The release states that on April 29, 2014, the Lands and Surveys Department issued an Eviction Notice and a Cease and Desist Order to individuals of the Harmonyville Development Area regarding the “unlawful clearing and occupation of the land designated as the Buffer Zone Area (Reserve) within that subdivision or development scheme.”

The Ministry then warned that “any non-compliance with the aforementioned orders will be dealt with forthwith according to the law and with the ultimate consequence resulting in demolition.”

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Buffer Zone Areas in any development are the property of the Government of Belize and should be left in its natural state, adding that any activity within the Buffer Zone (Reserve) should only occur with permission from the Lands and Surveys Department within the Ministry.

Amandala spoke to Nigel Petillo, Chairman of the Belize Youth Grassroots Empowerment Association (BGYEA) who originally developed the Harmonyville area, and he told us that for the past 4 years, there has been an agreement between BGYEA and the Government of Belize (GOB) that no one can occupy the buffer, and therefore, families living in the Buffer Zone were informed by BGYEA that they will be given an acre of land in another part of the community.

Petillo stated that there were a few families who were still living in the Reserve area and today, Government officials went out there and told them that they need to move.

So far, two people have willingly moved, according to Petillo, who said that BGYEA has partnered with an investor to plant out the Buffer Zone with corn; however, after making an investment of over $40,000, the Ministry of Natural Resources has now told them that they need to stop planting on the land which they (BGYEA) have already cleaned and ploughed.

Petillo maintained that they did the investment so that they could eventually build roads in the community and mentioned that he will be meeting with Commissioner of Lands, Wilbert Vallejos, next Monday to discuss the issue.

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