BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 10, 2021– On Monday, the Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Kareem Musa; the Minister of Sustainable Development, Hon. Orlando Habet; and the Minister of Border Security, Hon. Florencio Marin, joined the Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) for a helicopter ride above the Chiquibul Forest followed by a discussion about better management of the reserve.
Due to the Chiquibul’s close proximity to our Western border with Guatemala, encroachers are often found in the forest harvesting valuable forest resources (such as Xate leaves) and poaching endangered wildlife. The Executive Director of the FCD, Rafael Manzanero, spoke with the media following his flyover and explained that the trip was key to the effort to engage the Ministries more fully in border matters and the oversight of protected areas.
Manzanero also mentioned that the flyover enabled the Ministers to get a firsthand view of some of the issues being faced in the management and protection of these areas. When asked what is the next step moving forward, Manzanero stated, “What we wanted to project on this trip was basically for them to look at the true conditions. Based on that, we would hope that the strategies that the Government will employ will certainly go on line of better securing the Western border. We flew over the conservation posts starting from the Machakil Ha, which is near the Colombia River, and way up to the northernmost, one of which is the Caballo Conservation posts. So, from there they got the angle about the incursions, agricultural farming, cattle ranching, so I am hoping the strategy then can be much more in line with the actual reality occurring on the ground.”
In regards to measures needed to see progress, Manzanero said that a more efficient system is needed on the ground in the form of a “joint forces operations” as well as increased mobilization capabilities and better equipment to conduct foot patrols. Manzanero has indicated that he hopes that the Government will continue to dialogue with the FCD to roll out more collaborative measures and de-sensitizing campaigns as it tries to address border encroachments.
Minister Habet also spoke with the media following the overhead tour and had this to say:
“In terms of what we saw, we can see that the work that the FCD has been doing has paid off and continues to pay off. And their being able to co-manage these vast landscapes for the Government of Belize – for the people of Belize, a lot of the deforested areas where some of the incursions occurred is now growing back into natural forests. You can see the difference in colors where young trees are coming up… We were able to visit the conservations posts that are there almost close to the border where they can do their patrols, and we also have been told by FCD that the risks that were there before really no longer exist… I believe that we are in a good position. We are talking to FCD because there are certain areas that we think that another co-management agreement can come between FCD and maybe other NGO’s and the Government of Belize to mange the larger landscape instead of only the Chiquibul.”
Habet stated that there are very little incursions occurring at this time in the Chiquibul and some of Belize’s exotic resources such as the Xate leaf are beginning to flourish and could be the basis of future, sustainable industries. Gold panning is still occurring; however, it has been reduced to a lower scale, according to the FCD.