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Maya Farmers in South Belize Hold Strong to Their Climate Change Experiment

In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

Magnus Tut a member of the Trio Cacao Farmers Association cuts open a white cacao pod from one of several bearing treen in his plot. The group is hoping to find more buyers for their organic white cacao and vegetables. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

BELMOPAN, Sep 5 2018 (IPS) – In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

The Ya’axché Conservation Trust helps farmers to establish traditional tree crops, like the cacao, that would provide them with long-term income opportunities through restoring the forest, protecting the natural environment, while building their livelihoods and opportunities. Experts say the farmers are building resilience to climate change in the eight rural communities they represent.

The agroforestry concession is situated in the Maya Mountain Reserve and is one of two agroforestry projects undertaken by the 5Cs, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), in its efforts to implement adaptation and mitigation strategies in communities across the Caribbean.

Close to 6,000 people both directly and indirectly benefit from the project which Dr. Ulric Trotz, science advisor and deputy executive director of the 5Cs, noted was established with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID).

“It is easily one of our most successful and during my most recent visit this year, I’ve seen enough to believe that the concept can be successfully transferred to any community in Belize as well as to other parts of the Caribbean,” he told IPS.

The Trio Cacao Farmers Association and the Ya’axché Conservation Trust have been working together since 2015 to acquire and establish an agroforestry concession on 379 hectares of disturbed forest. The agroforestry project was given a much-need boost with USD250,000 in funding through the 5Cs.

According to Christina Garcia, Ya’axché’s executive director, the project provides extension services. It also provides training and public awareness to prepare the farmers on how to reduce deforestation, prevent degradation of their water supplies and reduce the occurrence of wildfires in the beneficiary communities and the concession area.

Since the start, more than 50,000 cacao trees have been planted on 67 hectares and many are already producing the white cacao, a traditional crop in this area. To supplement the farmers’ incomes approximately 41 hectares of ‘cash’ crops, including bananas, plantains, vegetable, corn and peppers, were also established along with grow-houses and composting heaps that would support the crops.

This unique project is on track to become one of the exemplary demonstrations of ecosystems-based adaptation in the region.

The 35 farming families here are native Maya. They live and work in an area that is part of what has been dubbed the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, which connects the forests of the Maya Mountains to that of the coastal lowlands and is managed by Ya’axché.

Farmers here believe they are reclaiming their traditional ways of life on the four hectares which they each have been allocated. Many say they’ve improved their incomes while restoring the disturbed forests, and are doing this through using techniques that are protecting and preserving the remaining forests, the wildlife and water.

On tour of the Ya’axché Agroforestry Concession in the Maya Golden Landscape. From right: Dr Ulric Trotz, deputy executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC); Dr Mark Bynoe, head of project development at the 5Cs; Isabel Rash, chair of the Trios Cacao Farmers Association; Magnus Tut, farmer and ranger and behind him Christina Garcia, executive director Ya’axché Conservation Trust. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Other members of the communities, including school-age teenagers, were given the opportunity to start their own businesses through the provision of training and hives to start bee-keeping projects. Many of the women now involved in bee-keeping were given one box when they started their businesses.

The men and women who work the concession do not use chemicals and can, therefore, market their crops as chemical free, or organic products. They, however, say they need additional help to seek and establish those lucrative markets. In addition to the no-chemicals rule, the plots are cultivated by hand, using traditional tools. But farmer Magnus Tut said that this is used in conjunction with new techniques, adding that it has improved native farming methods.

“We are going back to the old ways, which my father told me about before chemicals were introduced to make things grow faster. The hardest part is maintaining the plot. It is challenging and hard work but it is good work, and there are health benefits,” Tut told IPS.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the farmers’ beliefs, reporting that up to 11 percent of greenhouse gases are caused by deforestation and “between 24 and 30 percent of total mitigation potential” can be provided by halting and reversing deforestation in the tropics.

“The hardest part of the work is getting some people to understand how/what they do impacts the climate, but each has their own story and they are experiencing the changes which make it easier for them to make the transition,” said Julio Chun, a farmer and the community liaison for the concession. He told IPS that in the past, the farmers frequently used fires to clear the land.

Chun explained that farmers are already seeing the return of wildlife, such as the jaguar, and are excited by the possibilities.

“We would like to develop eco-tourism and the value-added products that can support the industry. Some visitors are already coming for the organic products and the honey,” he said.

Ya’axché co-manages the Bladen Nature Reserve and the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve, a combined 311,607 hectares of public and privately owned forest. Its name, pronounced yash-cheh, is the Mopan Maya word for the Kapoc or Ceiba tree (scientific name: Ceiba pentandra), which is sacred to the Maya peoples.

Of the project’s future, Garcia said: “My wish is to see the project address the economic needs of the farmers, to get them to recognise the value of what they are doing in the concession and that the decision-makers can use the model as an example to make decisions on how forest reserves can be made available to communities across Belize and the region to balance nature and livelihoods.”

Scientists believe that well-managed ecosystems can help countries adapt to both current climate hazards and future climate change through the provision of ecosystem services, so the 5Cs has implemented a similar project in Saint Lucia under a 42-month project funded by the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance (EU-GCCA+) to promote sustainable farming practices.

The cacao-based agroforestry project in Saint Lucia uses a mix-plantation model where farmers are allowed to continue using chemicals, but were taught to protect the environment. Like the Ya’axché project, Saint Lucia’s was designed to improve environmental conditions in the beneficiary areas; enhance livelihoods and build the community’s resilience to climate change.

In the next chapter, the Ya’axché farmers project is hoping that, among other things, a good samaritan will help them to add facilities for value-added products; acquire eco-friendly all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to move produce to access points; and replace a wooden bridge that leads to the main access road.

Tut and Chun both support the views of the group’s chair Isabel Rash, that farmers are already living through climate change, but that the hard work in manually “clearing and maintaining their plots and in chemical-free food production, saves them money”, supports a healthy working and living environment and should protect them against the impacts of climate change.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

CCCCC participates in the GCF Structured Dialogue with the Caribbean

Members of Staff  of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre are currently participating in the The Green Climate Fund’s Structured Dialogue with the Caribbean held in Placencia, Belize, from June 19-22, 2017.  The Structured Dialogue is organized in collaboration with the Government of Belize and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre with the intention to bring together key stakeholders to increase the involvement of Caribbean countries with the GCF.

Participation of countries in the Caribbean region includes Ministers, senior government officials, including representatives of the GCF National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Focal Points, Accredited Entities, Readiness delivery partners, civil society organizations, private sector representatives, GCF Board Members and Secretariat staff among others.

 

Group Photo of Participants at the GCF Structured Dialogue with the Caribbean

The four-day gathering provides an opportunity for countries and Accredited Entities to share their experiences in engaging with the Fund across key areas. It is also aimed at developing a roadmap for countries in the region through identification of  project opportunities in partnership with Accredited Entities, as well as mapping readiness and project preparation support needs that the GCF can provide. The CCCCC welcome this opportunity to engage with the countries and entities present at the meeting and look forward to collaborating on project preparation and implementation.

Dr. Donneil Cain, Project Development Specialist, CCCCC

Dr. Donneil Cain, Project Development Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre gave a brief overview of the CCCCC entity work programme development, which highlighted how the CCCCC develops their  work programme; the process of the development of inputs into  the work programme; addressing the challenges in developing the work programme; as well as identified ways in which the GCF could help support this process.

He highlighted that the Centre’s work programme is guided by the priority of CARICOM countries as well as the Regional Framework and Implementation Plan, which outlines the strategic direction for the region’s response to climate change risks. Projects are aligned with both national and regional strategies and plans. Climate modeling and information are also critical inputs into developing projects for our work programme. This important for building the climate change case.

Dr. Cain also identified that there are capacity constraints within the CCCCC but through coordination and collaboration, CCCCC is helping countries develop GCF ready programmes and projects. CCCCC acts as a conduit in the dissemination of relevant information to help this process and is committed to helping countries development priority programmes and projects.

The CCCCC is accredited for programmes/project value at between US$10 million and US$50 million; however, even when scaled, some of our adaptation projects would not fall within the range identified. Against this background, Dr. Cain suggested that Enhance Direct Access (EDA) facility, which is an on-granting facility, is important to delivering some adaptation initiatives in the region given their scope and scale.

On Wednesday, Dr. Mark Bynoe will expand to give details about CCCCC pipeline projects as well as identify project opportunities for the region.

The CCCCC expectations for the Structured Dialogue are:

  1. Government and NDA will have a better understanding of the GCF processes and requirements for accessing funding from the GCF; and,
  2. enhanced collaboration between entities and countries to advance adaptation and mitigation projects in the region.

Caribbean Rolls Out Plans to Reduce Climate Change Hazards

Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas. Held recently in Montreal, the gathering included more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean.

“We recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is arguably the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment, because without those efforts our other efforts to reduce many hazards and the risks those pose to communities would be overwhelmed over the longer term,” Glasser said.

The conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with UNISDR marked the first opportunity for governments and stakeholders of the Americas to discuss and agree on a Regional Action Plan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.

The Sendai Framework is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). The Framework is a 15-year, voluntary non-binding agreement which recognises that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

“The regional plan of action you will adopt . . . will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as national and local DRR strategies are developed and further refined in line with the Sendai Framework priorities over the next four years,” Glasser said.

The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions but will be among the most severely impacted.

The region is already experiencing its impacts with more frequent extreme weather events such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean, extreme drought across the region with severe consequences in several countries; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010.

Inaction for the Caribbean region is very costly. An economic analysis focused on three areas – increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure – revealed damages could cost the region 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. That’s more than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all the member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

At the Montreal conference, Head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson was a panelist in a forum discussing the linkages between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development. He said the region needs to marry its indigenous solutions to disaster risk management with modern technology.

“We’ve recognised that in the old days, our fore parents…had to deal with flood conditions and they survived them very well. There were simple things in terms of how they pulled their beds and other valuables out of the flood space in the house in particular. This contributed to their surviving the storms with minimal loss,” Jackson said.

“That knowledge of having to face those adverse conditions and surviving them and coping through them and being able to bounce back to where they were before, that was evident in our society in the past. It has subsequently disappeared.”

CDEMA is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Agency was established in 1991 with primary responsibility for the coordination of emergency response and relief efforts to participating states that require such assistance.

Another regional agency, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is collaborating with other agencies on the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).

The CRMI aims to provide a platform for sharing the experiences and lessons learned between different sectors across the Caribbean in order to facilitate improved disaster risk reduction.

“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin because to the extent we are able to enhance disaster risk reduction we are also beginning to adapt to climate change,” Dr. Mark Bynoe, the CCCCC’s senior environment and resource economist said.

He explained that there are a range of activities carried out specifically in terms of climate adaptation that will also have a disaster risk reduction element.

“We are looking at enhancing water security within a number of our small island states. One of the things we are focusing on there is largely to produce quality water through the use of reverse osmosis systems but we’re utilizing a renewable energy source. So, on the one hand we are also addressing adaptation and mitigation.”

Meantime, CCCCC’s Deputy Director Dr. Ulric Trotz said the agency is rolling out a series of training workshops in 10 countries to share training tools that were developed with the aim of assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions. These include the Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model/ Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (SMASH), and the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO).

The training will target key personnel whose focus are in areas of agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning or disaster risk reduction.

“The CARIWIG [Caribbean Weather Impacts Group] tool is a critical tool in that it more or less localizes the projection so that for instance, you can actually look at climate projections for the future in a watershed in St. Kitts and Nevis. It localizes that information and it makes it much more relevant to the local circumstance,” said Dr. Trotz.

Training and application of the tools will allow decision-makers to better understand the potential impacts of drought, tropical storms, and rainfall and temperature changes. When combined with other data and information, they can help to build a picture of potential impacts to key economic sectors in the various countries.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

Climate Change Exchange – Presentations and COP 21 Card

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre held the second in a series of Climate Change Exchange events last Thursday in Belize City. The first was held in Barbados last October. The event, which was held with support from the European Union – Global Climate Change Alliance (EU -GCCA) Programme and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) under the DFID ARIES project, sought to raise awareness and promote dialogue about COP 21 slated to be held in Paris later this year, the United National (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), and the range of work done by the Centre across the Caribbean over the last decade.

The widely supported event attracted over 150 guests drawn from the apex of government, the diplomatic corps, the scientific community, civil society, development partners, universities, local and regional media and the general public. It was also live-streamed and broadcast live on four television stations (Krem, Love, Channel 5 and Channel 7) and two radio stations (Krem and Love) in Belize. The event was also covered by the Barbados-based Caribbean Media Corporation and Jamaica’s CVM TV.

An impressive set of international, regional and national experts addressed the audience, including Professor Christopher Fields and Dr Katherine Mach of Stanford University, Mr Carlos Fuller, a veteran Caribbean negotiator, Dr Leonard Nurse, a member of the IPCC’s research and author teams for four global assessment reports and three key project managers.

Peruse the Speakers' Guide to learn more about our speakers.

 Why is COP 21 Important?

This key public education event was held as 2015 is shaping up to be a landmark year for global action on Climate Change. The future of the Caribbean depends on a binding and ambitious global agreement at COP 21. A bold agreement that curbs greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global rise in temperature to below 2°C is needed to safeguard our survival, food, critical industries such as tourism, infrastructure and promote renewable energy.

Peruse our informational card "Why is COP 21 Important?" for more context and the region's 11 point negotiating position leading up to COP 21.

Here’s the Agenda to guide you as you peruse the evening’s key presentations (below).

Key Presentations

Keynote Address by Professor Christopher Field and Dr. Katharine Mach of Stanford University 
Keynote Address  by Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer at the CCCCC – 
CCCCC's Programme Development and Management Presentation by Dr. Mark Bynoe, Sr Economist and Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit at the CCCCC 
EU -GCCA Presentation by Joseph McGann , EU - GCCA Programme Manager at the CCCCC
KfW Presentation by Kenneth Reid, KfW Programme Manager at the CCCCC 

*Click all hyperlinks to access relevant files/webpages.

Podcast: Small Island States – Dr Mark Bynoe on Climate Change, the Caribbean and partnerships for resilience

Map showing tropical cyclone tracks over the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific regions from 1985 to 2005: NASA: (Public domain)

Map showing tropical cyclone tracks over the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific regions from 1985 to 2005: NASA: (Public domain)

Dr Mark Bynoe, our senior resource economist here at the CCCCC, recently spoke with Acclimatise Conversation on Climate Change Adaptation ahead of the UN conference on SIDS.

Tune into the Podcast via the link below:

Credit: Acclimatise 

Reverse Osmosis Plant soon to be reality on Carriacou

Reverse Osmosis Project- Carriacou and Petite Martinique

Reverse Osmosis Project- Carriacou and Petite Martinique

The problem of low water supply, especially during the dry season, will soon be a thing of the past for residents of  Carriacou.

The equipment for the setting up of two reverse osmosis plants has begun arriving.

Mark Bynoe, Environmental Economist with the CARICOM Climate Change Centre, the funding agency, is on island along with a team from the Centre, to ensure everything is in place for the setting of the two plants.

The project is being done in partnership with the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NaWASA) and the Grenada Electricity Services Ltd (GRENLEC).

Bynoe said that the project which stemmed from the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs Sustainable Development Plan; is a way of improving water security on the island in the face of a changing climate.

The plants should be up and running by September 2014 on both islands, however Bynoe noted that in the interim water distribution will be focused in the town of Hillsborough; with the view of expanding later while the entire island of Petite Martinique will be serviced by the plant there.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs Bernadette Lendore-Sylvester said the setting up of the reverse osmosis plants is a welcomed initiative as the Government is working towards alleviating the problems associated with the dry season.

The treatment plant for the reverse osmosis plant for Carriacou will be set up on the grounds of the old desalination plant in Seaview.

Presently, the people of the twin isle parish largely depend on rainwater harvesting to meet their potable water needs.

Credit: The Official Website of the Government of Grenada

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