Workshop highlights importance of mangroves in preserving Belizean coastlines

After more than a month of taking in the food, culture and sunshine (and thunderstorms) in Hopkins, I have received ethics approval to conduct my research on Practitioners’ Perceptions on Community Involvement in Belize, and have wasted no time getting my interviews lined up. The first two were with Minerva and Carianne from the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). I learned about what PADF has done since they started in 2013, and about the latest project called Community Preparedness and Resilience in Belize. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Minerva invited the Queen Elizabeth Scholars and Global Studies students to participate in a two-day Mangrove Reforestation Training and Climate Change workshop. The first day was spent in Dangriga learning about the different mangroves that are native to Belize, and how to plant and care for them. There are three species native to Belize: the red mangrove, the black mangrove and the white mangrove. Each one grows in a particular zone along the coastline depending on how much saltwater they can tolerate. The Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMAI) also gave a lively presentation about mangrove-related legislation; the group is passionate about becoming a community of practice and protection. We also learned about past and present mangrove projects and participated in an informational session about climate change jargon and terminology.

The workshop was an amazing experience. There was such diversity in the room: journalists, teachers, researchers, fishermen and volunteers gathering together to make a difference in their communities. The mangroves that this group plants will protect a school in Dangriga from coastal erosion and reforest a portion of the shoreline in Hopkins. This little project feels like the start of something big. I hope that future Queen Elizabeth Scholars and Vancouver Island University Global Studies interns who are interested in climate change adaptation and mangrove reforestation will come to Belize and continue to pursue this needed and necessary work.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway was the idea that land use and development legislation changes could have huge impacts on preserving the coastline here. My project is to create a guidebook for community engagement for land use issues, and submit it to the Belize Association of Planners as they push for legislative changes and planning in Belize. It is amazing to feel like my research could aide in protecting this beautiful coastline.

Teunesha Evertse, Community Planning, VIU