After the devastating hurricane Iris struck southern Belize in 2001, many acres of forests and crop lands were lost. The hurricane left behind a thick layer of dry debris on the forest floor which triggered forest fires, resulting in the burning of farms and loss of forest cover. Communities were left in great crisis and farmers suffered serious loss.
Ya’axché assisted farmers in three of the most severely impacted communities to restore and recover their farmland by planting both timber and fruit trees. By 2004, Ya’axché fully established its agroforestry initiative which evolved into helping farmers to reforest lost forest cover with native timber species such as cedar and mahogany and recover their farm with an agroforestry system.
Farmers started to establish cacao and coffee-based agroforestry systems that resulted in reforestation, restoration of soils fertility, biodiversity protection, crop diversification, value-adding products and ecotourism services. The agroforestry system is now found across the Maya Golden Landscape and into Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve (MMNFR) under the stewardship of Trio Farmers Cacao Growers Limited.
Belize’s first community agroforestry concession
The 936-acre agroforestry concession was established in 2015, becoming the first of its kind in Belize. The concession operates under a conservation agreement with the Forest Department of Belize, Ya’axché Conservation Trust and Trio Farmers.
Trio village is a buffering community to Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve and is directly dependent on the reserve’s natural resources. Farming is a main source of income and to place food on the table for several households. Community farmers voiced their need to access land to continue their farming and requested access to MMNFR which has gone through a dereservation of several thousands of acres of land.
Trio farmers then proposed a multi-purpose site, the agroforestry concession which will benefit their families and to the conservation of forests, the Trio branch Monkey River and biodiversity. Today farmers are harvesting cacao, coffee, fruits, vegetables, grains, and ground food for their livelihoods. Ya’axché’s research and monitoring activities has proven that the five wild cats of Belize are roaming the reserve as well as the presence of the endangered Scarlet Macaws and Howler Monkeys.
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