PACT, The Protected Areas Conservation Trust, today presented $736,769 in new project grants to six different environmental and conservation groups at the House of Culture in Belize City.
Apart from distributing small, medium, and large grants, the trust also gave out research grants to the non-governmental organizations to enable them to protect and conserve Belize’s natural treasures, as well as to carry out educational awareness on the environment.
Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation of Development and the Sarteneja Fishermen Association were both given small grants, while the Belize Fisheries Department received a medium-sized grant of about two hundred thousand dollars to aid in the expansion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Expansion Project, which is located in South Ambergris Caye.
For the first time, two research grants were issued – one for the development of a monitoring plan for the Queen Conch at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, and the other for the conservation of the Baird’s Tapir in central Belize, using GPS collars.
The largest grant – $384,071, however, was issued to the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO). Jose Perez, who received the grant on behalf of APAMO, said that the money will be used for a project that will facilitate the strengthening of the organization as an institution as it continues to focus on the capacity-building of its community-based organizations. Perez mentioned that part of the capacity-building, which should strengthen the governance of the organizations, will involve imparting financial, administrative, and other technical skills that will enable them, at the end of the day, to manage the protected areas. Perez also stated that the mentorship program of APAMO will continue, and that this particular project will be conducted under the technical financial oversight of the APAMO staff, and will be aided by the specific expertise of contracted consultancies.
Hon. Lisel Alamilla, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. She spoke of the importance of providing funding for environmental groups. Alamilla said that it is extremely vital to ensure that government contributes to the management of Belize’s protected areas, and PACT is the mechanism that GOB uses for the distribution of government funds to the NGOs that they partner with in sustainably managing our natural resources and engaging the stakeholders, such as local fishers. She commented that today is an important day because it marks the first time that the Protected Areas Conservation Trust, which has been in the business of granting monies towards protected areas management, has seen it important to make an extraordinary call for proposals. “And so today we are here to sign this; in seventeen years, this is the first time we’re doing that”, said Hon. Alamilla.
Vincent Gillett, Chairman of the PACT Advisory Council, said that there are at least twelve grant types that are supported by PACT. He said that the grant awards range from as low as ten thousand dollars, to four hundred thousand dollars. Gillett said that throughout the year, and depending upon the availability of funds, calls for proposals are widely advertised to invite participants to submit their proposals. The ceremony was thus a celebration of the culmination of many hours of diligent work done by the applicants, and those dedicated persons who process, review and finally approve proposals for support, he said.
Leomir Santoyo, who received a grant for the Sarteneja Fishermen Association, which was established in 2007 to serve the fishermen of Sarteneja, spoke about the Lionfish and its devastating effects on marine life. They plan to use the grant to assist in effectively managing the population of this invasive species. Santoyo said, “On behalf of Sarteneja Fishermen Association, I want to express my sincere gratitude to PACT for their funding support to [an] alternative initiative for the Sarteneja Fishermen.”
Joel Verde, of the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD), said that their project is basically looking at system level collaboration and communication within Northern Belize, and they hope to engage key players in the process, with the help of the Forestry and Fisheries Departments.