TIDE hosted a two-day reforestation exchange for the leaders of communities in Toldeo to learn how to positively manage the effects of climate change.
Participants were taught various innovative methods of reforesting riverbanks and deforested areas using successful local projects as examples. The training showed that by planting trees, communities could safeguard against the negative effects of climate change, but also positively manage their land; reforestation guarantees ecosystems remain healthy; ensures riverbanks are stabilized incase of flooding; increases food security by planting fruit trees and vegetables incase of food shortages; removes carbon dioxide (a gas causing climate change) from the atmosphere and provides important habitats for animals. It is an important tool of ensuring a stable environmental future in Belize.
TIDE’s terrestrial biologist, Elmar Requena, ran the training with funding from the European Union via the Belize National Climate Change Office. Village magistrates (Alcaldes) from San Pedro Columbia, Forest Home and Trio, a chairperson from Medina bank, as well as representatives from TIDE, Ya’axche, Belize Climate Change Office and Lot 6 Banana Farm all attended the training. The group carried out both field and conference based lectures.
The first knowledge exchange began at Witzil Hi Farm in San Antonio to explain agroforestry, which is a method of farming that incorporates multiple plant species into an environment that retains its natural state. The farm grows hundreds of different species of commercial, medicinal, spice, fruit and timber trees in 30 acres of land. Witzil Hi is owned by our very own Assistant Terrestrial Ranger, Mr Ah!
Agroforestry farms are completely organic which means no pesticides or unnatural products are used on the land. It is easy to tell an organic farm by the high number of insects, birds and especially the presence leaf cutter ants. By tending to land and ensuring soil and water conservation, as well as high levels of shade, soil on farms will remain high in nutrients with little erosion over decades. If farmers use these techniques, they will be able to plant many species of fruit trees and vegetables, which aid food security in the future. Mr Ah uses these techniques and currently grows cacao that is exported to make chocolate in Europe.
The second example of farming showcased was ‘Inga alley cropping’. Kenny Cal from Ya’axche explained that by planting rows of fast growing trees such as Inga, community leaders or local farmers could create shade on the floor below and then cut back the trees allowing their leaves to decompose, creating alleys of nutrient rich soil on which you can plant crops! The idea is to create both a carbon sink but also to reuse one plot of land over generations by returning nutrients to the soil.
The final example during the training focused heavily on reforesting Toledo’s riverbanks. The group visited San Pedro Colombia and San Miguel to learn about the reforestation projects carried out by Xucaneb and C’ac’ alenel Car Sa’ Nima. This experience gave community leaders ideas about projects they can take back to their communities. Each member planted an Inga tree at the end of the training!
Reforestation is such an important project in Belize as we value our forests, rivers and oceans! All water runs from the land into rivers and into the ocean; if water is polluted it not only provides unsanitary drinking water for local communities but also negatively impacts the barrier reef. By planting trees along riverbanks, their root systems help stabilize the soil, they reduce the amount of chemicals from farms and households running into streams, they increase natural habitats and increase quality of human life. In Belize, the law states each river must have a 66-foot buffer next to rivers for public access. We are hoping this training will reach the ears of homeowners along rivers and they will begin to reforest their land. The participants from the workshop learnt that reforestation can be both personally and nationally beneficial, but it takes action and perseverance! Although there are short-term costs, there are long term gains! Reforestation projects will help future generations and we must begin now!
It is now a necessity to ensure communities are engaged and by sharing knowledge and awareness, everyone involved in the training can help plan reforesting projects in the future.