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BTB and EU Break Ground on Infrastructure Projects for Archaeological Sites Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00

Minister of Tourism Culture and Civil Aviation, Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., European Union’s Ambassador to Belize, H.E. Paola Amadei, and Area Representative for Belize Rural North, Hon. Edmund Castro, broke ground on infrastructural works at the Altun Ha archaeological reserve on Wednesday, February 12th. Altun Ha is one of nine archaeological reserves that will benefit from a European Union funded project entitled “Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Sites (MTBCAAS)”.

 The Belize Tourism Board is the implementing agency of the $4 million project supported by the European Union in which nine archaeological sites will be renovated over the next year. The project falls under phase 2 of the European Union’s Belize Rural Development Program. Ambassador Paola Amadei from the Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, Belize, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands said, “Tourism is an effective way to target rural development.” At the groundbreaking ceremony she said, “It is a symbolic event as this EU funded project aims on one side to improve the experience of tourists visiting the archaeological sites AND as well promotes employment and better opportunities in the communities in the proximity of the archaeological site.  This project has the component of promoting community development.”
Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., is very passionate about the project. He said the project seeks to empower the community so that residents can generate income and become more independent. The project stresses capacity building for residents of rural communities surrounding Xunantunich, Barton Creek, Actun Tunichil Muknal, Caves Branch, Altun Ha, Lamanai, Nim Li Punit, Lubaantun and Blue Creek. Tourist markets will be constructed for local artisans and service providers at the sites. There will be training for local guides, assessors and artisans and training of personnel in health and safety requirements, including cave rescuing. BTB also intends to develop product certification standards, product branding and quality control mechanisms for locally produced arts and craft. Visitor facilities at the 9 sites will be enhanced to meet regional standards in health and safety provisions. Trails will be enhanced, a signage system will be integrated and infrastructure upgraded. Regional regulations for health and safety standards will be enacted and enforced and a manual for the implementation of regulations at archaeological sites will be drafted.

The European Union’s contribution to the project is $2.75 million. BTB and the Government of Belize will provide the additional sum as counterpart funding. The Belize Rural Development Program aims to provide economic opportunities for residents of rural communities with the goal of reducing poverty.