Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2021. 1:48 pm CST.
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: The Selva Maya Natural Resources Protection Project came to a close on Thursday morning with an international virtual conference directed at Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and Germany.
The four-year project which started in 2017 was implemented by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, (UICN in Spanish) in partnership with regional organizations responsible for protected areas in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico with the support of Germany’s Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German Development Bank (KfW).
The project was aimed at protecting the endangered Maya Rainforest (Selva Maya).
The Selva Maya has an extension of more than 4 million hectares in which we can find archaeological sites, some of which have been declared natural and cultural world heritage by UNESCO. It is also home to many species of flora and fauna, some of which are in danger of extinction.
The IUCN says the Selva Maya is under great pressures which put its conservation in danger. Daily it’s affected by pressures such as forest fires, illegal logging, and illegal trafficking of flora and fauna, among others.
The UICN said that with the intent of conserving the Maya Rainforest, the Selva Maya Project has over the last four years concentrated its efforts and actions to protect and conserve the richness of the forest.
The Selva Maya Project’s goals were to: improve the management effectiveness of its protected areas; increase connectivity between protected areas; and strengthen coordination capacity among Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico to carry out conservation and sustainable management actions. conservation and sustainable management actions.
The conference had the participation of conservation officer from the three countries.
Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer at the Belize Forestry Department said that Belize has benefitted immensely from the Selva Maya project which proved that tri-national cooperation is possible.
Sabido said Belize focused on five priority protected areas and has seen marked improvement in the management effectiveness of the five protected areas.
He pointed out that Belize has seen, in terms of communication, an improved governance system between the state and NGO partners, in terms of the surveillance and enforcement activities.
Sabido said that there are continuous threats to protected areas, mainly illegal activities through encroachments into protected areas, which eventually leads to the loss of the integrity of the eco-systems but added that the Selva Maya Project helped in improving response time by the partners through the provisioning of field equipment, transport, communications equipment.
He also said that as a result of the project’s capacity building with regards to Green Laws, the Forestry Department’s partners now having an intimate knowledge of Court procedures to address the illegal actions and to initiate court action. He said they’ve seen a marked improvement in arrests over the past two years as a result of the investments that have been made.
He said that as a result of capacity building monitoring of the protected areas had improved through remote sensing and overflights.
The Selva Maya Project has been able to assist in the development of four management plans for affected areas.
As to public awareness, Chief Forest Officer Sabido said that they been able to engage the youth, especially through summer camps instilling in them, especially the children, the value of trees and the stewardship of our environment. The results have been very positive, he said, as it has resulted in the reforestation of urban areas by providing 1,000 trees every year to each of the municipalities in the country.
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