Page 1

Ya'axché Conservation Trust 2008 Annual Report

Sustainable Land-use Management

Community Outreach & Livelihoods


YA’AXCHÉ CONSERVATION TRUST Town Office: # 2 Prince Street P.O. Box 177 Punta Gorda Town Toledo District Belize Tel: (501) 722 0108 Email:

Field Station: Southern Highway Golden Stream Village Toledo District Belize Tel: (501) 603 1867



Ya'axchĂŠ Conservation Trust 2008 Annual Report CONTENTS From The President


About Ya'axchĂŠ


Sustainable Land-Use Management


Community Outreach and Livelihoods




Institutional Governance and Management


Our Future


Thank You


Financial Statement

17 2

FROM THE PRESIDENT Ya’axché Board of Directors

President Valentino Shal Community Rep. Golden Stream Alphonso Cal Community Rep. Medina Bank Victor Acal Community Rep. Indian Creek Reymundo Sanchez Private Sector Rep. Dale Gomez Fauna and Flora International Robert BenstedSmith Ex-Officio Lisel Alamilla

For the past ten years, the Ya'axché Conservation Trust (Ya’axché) has grown from a small group of concerned individuals to a fully established organization. Our growth represents not only a maturing on the part of the organization but also in the effectiveness of the work that we do. We at Ya’axché are fully cognizant of the challenges and opportunities that we face even while we pursue our mission. At Ya’axché we pursue the idea of sustainable development in a practical and responsible way. We wish to maintain the ecological integrity of the region where we work. At the same time we give equal attention to the relationship that local people have with the environment. Not only must we protect vital ecosystems, we must make it a way of life, not just for environmentalists but for all citizens who benefit from the natural environment. We must also strive to increase our efficiency in exploiting the bounty of natural resources to improve our material well-being. As the economy and the population of Belize grow, there will be greater demands on the services provided by our natural resources. There must be greater recognition among the population about the importance of protecting the services stream that we so freely enjoy. While some may say that only after economic prosperity can people care more about the environment, we must resolve within ourselves that we have the full capacity to act in our self-interest and that of nature now. Our quality of life, no matter how materially prosperous we become, is inevitably affected by the quality of our environment. We hope to continue participating as a stakeholder and an advocate for the proper management of our resources in Toledo. This Annual Report is meant to clarify our role and activities of the past year so that others understand who we are and why we do what we do. We welcome your feedback and even hope that you may join us in the pursuit of our mission.


Valentino Shal President, Ya’axché Conservation Trust


ABOUT YA’AXCHÉ Mission The Ya’axché Conservation Trust is a community-oriented organization which advances integrated landscape management for equitable development in southern Belize through sustainable land-use management, strategic advocacy and awareness, and by supporting socially innovative and economically viable enterprises Ya’axché accomplishes its mission through exemplary protected area management, proactive stakeholder collaboration, educational outreach, strategic advocacy, and by encouraging innovative, environmentally friendly enterprise. Programme Areas (1) Sustainable Land-Use Management (SLM) (2) Community Outreach and Livelihoods (COL) (3) Advocacy (ADV) (4) Institutional Governance and Management (IGM)

Ya’axché Staff Executive Director Lisel Alamilla Accountant Aretha Mortis Administrative Assistant Jody Wagner GSW Project Manager Ansel Dubon Sustainable Land-Use Programme Manager Nick Wicks Community Outreach and Livelihood Programme Manager Bartolo Teul Outreach Officers Auxebio Sho Julio Chub

Ya’axché Staff at Field Center 4

ABOUT YA’AXCHÉ Agroforestry Officer Kenny Cal Horticulturalist Teresa Co Field Supervisor: Marchilio Ack Rangers Juan Pop Solomon Muschamp Vigilio Cal Victor Bonilla Octavio Cal Abelino Zuniga Anignacio Makin Sipriano Canti Clemente Pop Alejandro Coy Wilbert Escalante

History In 1997, a consortium of individuals including an environmentalist - Philip Balderamos, a local Mayan leader Julian Cho, an ecotourism entrepreneur - Ken Karas; and community leaders - Bartolo Teul, Juan Choc and Juan Pop formed the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (GSCP) NGO. These persons made up the first Board of Directors of the GSCP NGO which would later become the Ya’axché Conservation Trust. In November 1998, the organization received its first oneyear grant of $60,000 US from the IUCN for institutional strengthening, hiring of staff, Mayan carvings demarcating of boundary lines and procurement of basic equipment. In the same year, GSCP NGO signed a 12-year institutional Memorandum of Understanding with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the world’s oldest conservation organization based out of Cambridge, UK. The name GSCP NGO was legally changed in 2002 to Ya’axché Conservation Trust, in an effort to achieve greater resonance with the local Mayan community, and so as not to bind the growing organization to working solely within the GSCP private protected area. The Golden Stream



ABOUT YA’AXCHÉ Ya’axché is the Maya Mopan name for Ceiba petandra (cotton tree), a sacred tree of Maya, which linked ixbalba (the underworld) to the heavens, and thus has symbolic importance to the Mayan communities. After Hurricane Iris hit Toledo in October 2001, the huge Ya’axché trees were the only trees left standing thanks to their deep roots and strong trunks, making them highly visible landmarks in Southern Belize, and a powerful namesake for the organization.

Ya’axché Volunteers Development Officers Nathaniel Miller Chloe Wells Aquatic Ecologist Rachael Carrie Ya’axché tree

The first 9,554 acre (3,386 ha) parcel of the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve was purchased thanks to support from FFI. The second Flick parcel, bought in March 2004 and funded by Grassvalley Trust increased GSCP’s area by 5,416 acres (2192 ha), to a grand total of 14,970 acres (6,058 ha). While the GSCP expanded in size, Ya’axché was also growing as an institution due to a committed Board of Directors, a small but dedicated staff, and increased fundraising successes. Funding support came from both resident and nonresident international cooperation agencies, and also from local sources. In particular, the partnership with FFI gave Ya’axché critical financial and technical support in its formative years. 6 Map of Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and bordering areas


The Golden Stream Watershed

For Ya'axché’s Sustainable Land-Use Management programme, 2008 was a momentous and pivotal year. The adoption by Ya'axché of Integrated Landscape Management was most clearly demonstrated by the development of the Golden Stream Watershed Management Strategy. This plan is the first of its kind in Belize to address a broad array of social, economic and environmental issues at a landscape level. Its development involved hundreds of local community members, private business people, the Government of Belize and civil society organizations.

This landscape planning benefited from the simultaneous preparation of a Conservation Action Strategy developed for an area referred to as the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor. This corridor covers almost a million acres, including the Golden Stream Watershed and a large buffer area surrounding it. To achieve this, Ya'axché joined forces with local partners, the Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment (TIDE), the Government of Belize’s Ya’axché Rangers Fisheries and Forest Departments and international organizations Fauna & Flora International and The Nature Conservancy. Over the course of a year, the six organizations developed a plan to protect the area’s natural resources, incorporating the opinions and knowledge of a vast array of partners and stakeholders.

S 7


SUSTAINABLE LAND-USE MANAGEMENT Significant milestones in Ya'axché’s Protected Area subprogramme have been achieved through the Global Environmental Facility’s medium sized project which has facilitated increased protected area management effectiveness of Ya'axché and its partners. Examples of this include the development of a standardized ranger training programme and manual, management effectiveness assessments for five protected areas and the development of a close partnership with TIDE in managing Jaguar smiling for a six adjacent units of private land as one. Ya’axché camera trap

Moreover, Ya'axché’s growth is evident by the Forest Department’s decision to name Ya'axché as its comanagement partner for the Bladen Nature Reserve in 2008. Bladen contains some of the highest levels of biodiversity in Central America.

Knowing that management without knowledge is blind, Ya'axché continues its extensive research and monitoring system. During 2008, these efforts have included: the use of fifty camera traps for jaguars, forest health monitoring in three protected areas, the development of Belize’s first comprehensive river health monitoring system (Ya’axhcé has now hired a full-time aquatic ecologist) and the publication of Ya'axché’s first annual biodiversity synthesis report.

Ya’axché field staff sampling invertebrates



A diseased cacao pod

Throughout 2008, Ya’axché’s Community Outreach and Livelihood Programme continued to work with more than 70 farmers and their families, giving group and individual training in organic, forest-friendly agriculture thanks to generous support from the Organization of American States, among others. The sub-programme focuses on organic vegetable gardens and organic cacao production. In 2008 over 6,000 cacao seeds were distributed to local farmers and multiple trainings and demonstrations were held on cacao pruning, sowing and fermentation of cacao beans as well as integrated pest management, composting, organic vegetable production and soil testing. Ya’axché’s plant nursery was expanded and diversified in 2008, to include more species of fruit and native timber trees. A total of 15,000 plant bags were bought and 8,000 mahogany seeds were planted. Plants are available at a subsidized cost to the public, with 100% of sales redirected back into the programme to purchase composting materials and plant bags. Working directly with community members of Medina Bank, Ya’axché assisted in the creation of a multifamily organic vegetable garden that will be fully operational in 2009.

Seedlings in Ya’axché’s nursery

Outreach Ya’axché works closely with several local businesses, particularly those that manage large tracts of land, including a citrus plantation, a local logging company, and a local tourist lodge in order to encourage Ya’axché’s Outreach Officer sustainable land-use management and speaking with tourists planning in the area. Ya’axché also promoted its integrated landscape approach and helped community members sell plants, trees, chocolate, and crafts at the 2008 Toledo Tourism Exposition.



COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND LIVELIHOODS The Annual Race Against Fire was held in the community of Golden Stream in March of 2008. The event builds awareness of forest fire threat to protected areas, community land and private property. It is held during the dry season, when there is a high risk of fire due to weather conditions and the traditional farming method that involves the burning of fields. This cycle race attracted around 500 villagers from ten communities, who were encouraged to participate and enjoy the day, whilst understanding more about prevention, management and laws pertaining to forest fires. The Annual Cacao Fest, 2008 Race Against Fire held in Toledo, was a community development event promoting the unique cultural and environmental diversity of Toledo and sustainable tourism in the district. The event provides an opportunity to build local support for organic cacao cultivation as a sustainable livelihood option for local farmers. It was a great success and was greeted with enthusiastic support by locals and visitors alike. In addition, Ya’axché, along with partner NGOs, organized a kids programme under the theme “Cacao: Keeping Toledo Green”. Youth Outreach Ya’axché performs school visits to ten villages, now including Trio and Bladen. The visits consist of presentations and discussions on environmental topics such as watershed management, protected areas, alternative livelihoods, agroforestry, reforestation, conservation, pollution and global warming. With many of these schools Ya’axché has established organic school vegetable gardens with seeds donated from the Ya’axché nursery. Clean-up campaigns and tree planting with Toledo’s youth are also conducted throughout the year. 10


Graduate of Ya’axché’s Scholarship Programme

Ya’axché’s Scholarship Programme supports children through four years of high school education. To be selected, children must meet criteria of academic merit and economic need and be recommended by their village leader. To date the Scholarship Programme has funded 46 children (11 children within the past year) through full or partial scholarships. 14 students have graduated, including five in 2008.

Ya’axché’s Outreach Programme leads a Summer Camp in August of each year. In 2008, 35 children participated in a ten-day camp. With the help of five counselors, these children from seven target communities developed knowledge on sustainable development and natural resource management through handson activities and field trips. The Summer Camp provides an excellent opportunity for the children to see various types of development and its impact on the natural places that surround them. The camp was held under the theme “Lets Treat Mother Earth with Respect through Wise Practices”.

Summer Camp youth receiving an agroforestry overview 11


ADVOCACY Toledo Healthy Forest Initiative (THFI) This year the Toledo Healthy Forest Initiative, of which Ya’axché is the Taskforce Coordinator, made progress in working towards its aim of devising alternative strategies and policies for forest management that could simultaneously address many interrelated concerns: the need for environmental sustainability, poverty The forests of Toledo alleviation and promotion of sustainable development. In 2008 the Taskforce, along with the Forest Department and local community foresters, undertook targeted assessments of four selected community forests, identifying viability for extraction. Ya’axché and THFI also spent time in 2008 working with Guatemalan counterparts to advance sustainable forestry practices in the region.

Belize Association for Private Protected Areas (BAPPA) In 2008 Ya’axché took an official spot as a member of the BAPPA board of directors, which aims to enable the incorporation of private protected areas in the context of the National Protected Areas System Plan (NPASP). Over the past several yeas Ya’axché has been working with BAPPA to improve and strengthen the legislative and financial environments that surround private protected areas – crucial to their effective conservation management. Currently private protected areas have no official legal recognition in Belize. BAPPA and Ya’axché are working with consultants to develop a provision for the inclusion of private protected areas in the National Parks Act. This recognition is essential to a complete and robust protected area system allowing for comprehensive biological conservation and management on a national and regional scale. 12

ADVOCACY Furthermore, BAPPA and Ya’axché are developing the Conservation Easement Act – a private conservation tool that has functioned very well in the United States and other American countries such as Costa Rica. Conservation easements encourage land owners to place development and extraction restrictions on their land in perpetuity.

Association of Protected Area Management Organizations (APAMO) As a member of APAMO, Ya’axché was heavily involved in supporting APAMO in its objective of prioritizing protected area management issues in Belize. In particular this year, Ya’axché and APAMO have produced a framework for co-management of protected areas that will strengthen national policy for conservation.

A view over the forests at the southern edge of the Golden Stream Watershed



INTSTITUTIONAL GOVERNANCE & MANAGEMENT Strategic Development 2008 marked a memorable year for the management of Ya’axché. Lisel Alamilla took the reins as the second ever Executive Director of Ya’axché. She brings a great deal of experience, passion and leadership to the organization. Ya’axché also brought in a full time Development Officer and completed their second ever strategic plan in order to guide them through 2011 in becoming a leader in the promotion of economically viable and ecologically sound development in southern Belize. Management Strategy and Conservation Planning The GSW management strategy, which has been developed over the past year by Ya’axché, supported by a Belizean consultancy team, is the first landscape level management plan in Belize to combine conservation with sustainable development. It examines how all stakeholders of the GSW can best work towards mutually defined goals that balance economic needs, quality of life and protection of biodiversity, and includes a landscape level business plan for small and medium-sized enterprises. Implementation of the strategy began in 2008. Through this management strategy, the financial and institutional capacity of Ya’axché will be strengthened and will enable the organization to better implement effective landscape management. Partnership A comprehensive partnership review was carried out in 2008, taking a multi-faceted approach to examine Ya’axché’s work. This process recorded the history of the partnership between FFI and Ya’axché, its successes and it identified present challenges. In light of the recommendations brought forth through this process Ya’axché and FFI signed a Partnership Agreement, guaranteeing their relationship for years to come.



The future of Toledo and Belize is bright

2008 has been a year of collaborative and integrated conservation and development actions. Ya’axché has seen effective, focused and shared efforts take place through all of its programme areas; from sustainable land-use and protected areas management, to advocacy of decision-makers and community outreach. Faced with constant and rising challenges, Ya’axché continues to be encouraged by the dedication of communities and the commitment of its own staff to making a difference in Belize. Ya’axché has made considerable advances in its programmatic areas in 2008, working to reach objectives and building the strength and capacity of the organization along the way in order to achieve even more in 2009 and beyond. It is only through the commitment and dedicated work of Ya’axché staff, communities, partner organizations and donors that it can make a positive impact on conservation and development in southern Belize. Ya’axché looks forward to moving ahead in 2009 with even greater goals and ambition.



THANK YOU Fauna and Flora International: Ya’axché’s principal institutional partner, who has supported its work from the beginning.

Granting organizations that funded Ya’axché in 2008: Global Environment Facility Medium Sized Project, via the United Nations Development Program • Organization of American States (OAS) • United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Neotropical Migratory Birds Conservation Act • Flagship Species Fund • Sea World Busch Gardens • Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) • PACT Foundation • Franklina • British High Commission • United States Agency for International Development (USAID) • Fauna and Flora International (FFI) • The Nature Conservancy (TNC) • Viaventure Foundation and the Lodge at Big Falls Partners: • Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) • Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) • Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) • Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) • Aguacaliente Management Team (AMT) • Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) • Belize Association of Private Protected Areas (BAPPA) • Toledo Healthy Forests Initiative (THFI) • Earthwatch Institute The Government of Belize, in particular the Forest Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment • Grassvalley Trust • Maya Mountain Research Farm • Belize Botanic Gardens • The Nature Conservancy (TNC) • Toledo Cacao Growers’ Association (TCGA) • Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA) • Belize Minerals Ltd. • The Lodge at Big Falls • Machaca Hill Lodge • Coral House Inn • Jan Meerman

We at Ya’axché give a warm “thank you” to all of those who supported our mission during 2008. In particular we would like to thank these organizations and individuals ~ 2008 Staff

2007 Financial Statement 16


Financial Report Ya’axché’s full Financial Report for 2008 will be completed and made available to the public in May of 2009

Miscellaneous Income








Consultancy Fees




Bank Charges








Maintenance and Repairs of Vehicles & Equipment


Loss on Exchange


Loss on Disposal of assets


Office Rent and Maintenance


Utilities (Light & Water)


Communication (telephone & Satellite)


Nursery (seeds and materials)


Capacity Building & Training


Wood Works






Postage & Courier




Travelling & Subsistence


Total Expenses


(Loss/profit for the year)


*All figures in Belize Dollars 17

Ya'axche 2008 Annual Report  

2008 has been a year of collaborative and integrated conservation and development actions. Ya’axché has seen effective, focused and shared e...

Ya'axche 2008 Annual Report  

2008 has been a year of collaborative and integrated conservation and development actions. Ya’axché has seen effective, focused and shared e...