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A 5-year project to increase the benefits of people living adjacent to protected areas in Belize will be launched Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Based on a US$6.08 million grant from the Global Environment Facility, the project will strengthen the forests’ sustainable production of food, raw materials, water, medicinal products, boost tourism, help improve protection from natural disasters, and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The “Management and Protection of Key Biodiversity Areas Project” (KBA Project) will be carried out by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development (MFFSD). The MFFSD will partner with 49 communities to increase their involvement and benefits from sustainable livelihood opportunities offered by the forests.

The targeted protected areas which total more than 500,000 acres, include:

Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve
Spanish Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
Vaca Forest Reserve
Chiquibul National Park
Maya Moutain North Forest Reserve
Columbia River Forest Reserve

Adele Catzim-Sanchez, Chief Executive Officer of MFFSD, said: “This generous grant means Belize can take a giant step forward in better protecting and managing our forest areas which are vital to the welfare of our people and our country’s sustainable economic future.”

The KBA Project, administered by the World Bank, will also strengthen laws to protect the forests, including the Forest Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, and the Environmental Protection Act. The project will also set up: a Forest Information System and Environment Information System to better manage forest data for decision making; a Forestry Monitoring and Compliance Unit to improve enforcement; and regional Forest Fire Brigades, amongst other activities.

The collaborating institutions of the KBA Project include: the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, the Ministry of Economic Development and Finance, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, PACT and APAMO.

Export earnings of forestry sector were valued at BZ$5.65 million in 2013.

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Dorian Nuñez

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