Belize has, with great fanfare, observed the International Day of Forests. The Forestry Department within the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development celebrated the United Nations-sanctioned day, International Day of Forests, near the National Police Headquarters building in Belmopan on March 21st. Many primary school-aged children were present for the event full day.
In her speech to the gathering, the Honorable Lisel Alamilla, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development stated that trees and forests are becoming increasingly important because of the carbon that is stored in them and reviewed her Ministry’s commitments towards fortifying the forests.
“My Ministry if committed to sustainable forest management by reducing deforestation and land degradation and improving our forest cover.”
“At the same time we are endeavoring towards a people centered focus on responsible use of forest resources”, she continued.
Belize’s forest today serves a multiple of purposes providing an endless supply of medicines, good soil, a home for wildlife, water and the air we breathe. The critical importance of forests have urged the Forestry Department to adopt a motto that the forest is more than trees.
Currently, Belize’s forest cover is 62.7% with a rate of deforestation at 0.6% or 25,000 acres lost per year. Belize’s experts are concerned with these numbers even though some 36% of our territory is under some form of protection. During a thirty year period, the rate of loss of forest cover was only 0.6% but that has changed dramatically.
“Between 1980 and 2010 we did an assessment and the rates was established at 0.6% however we did a follow-up assessment between 2010 and 2012 and we saw an increase of 0.4%, meaning that currently over two years the rate of deforestation is 1%, ” says Wilber Sabido, Belize’s Chief Forest Officer.
One model movement with every intention to replicate itself and boost Belize’s natural resources is the Corozal Sustainable Future Initiates (Shipstern), which on March 21st 2013, renewed efforts in a co-management agreement with Belize’s Forestry Department. The signing agreement by both Joe Moreno, the Executive Director for the Shipstern Nature Reserve and the Honorable Lisel Alamilla last Thursday gave a new impetus to guarding Belize’s biodiversity. Shipstern is a 22000 acres area on the North Eastern Part of the country near Sarteneja Village and is rich with 250 species of birds and host to some five major cat species. The diverse ecosystem of interweaving mangroves and shallow lagoons at Shipstern has been sustainably managed since 1989 and is currently being overseen by the International Tropical Conservation Foundation ITCA.
The agreement between two principals such as the Forestry Department and Shipstern locks up some more carbon. These efforts along with plans to impove Belize's forest cover is no coincidence as Belize prepares to trade in the international carbon market.
There are now entire forests in Costa Rica that have been left standing but yet continue to earn money from the industrialized countries - for the carbon stored in them. Carbon Emissions Trading is now a common method that countries use to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, which is an effort to reduce greenhouse gases.
Wilber Sabido believes that several things must happen on the ground before Belize can place its prospects on the Carbon Market. The Forestry Department is now in discussions with a Regional Project that is financed by the German Government where they have signaled that they are in a position to provide funding to develop a strategy towards carbon marketing.
Accor-ding to Sabido, Belize needs to develop a strategy on Carbon and essentially on climate change. But first the private sector investment will have to be engaged. Also, there will be a need to look at the rate of accumulation of biomass in Belize’s forest, enabling an estimate to be made on the carbon content throughout the forests 62% coverage and thus allow for a correct dollar tag to be placed on them. (Already, economists in Costa Rica have come up with mathematical formulas that give a precise dollar figure on the living component of its terrestrial and water ecosystems.)
“But there has to be underlying agreements, underlying policy based sort of agreements in the sense that issues such as the indigenous rights…the settlement of land tenure issues”, says Wilbert Sabido, commenting on what needs to happen towards implementing ‘a red forward strategy’ in the World of Carbon Trading.