Maya Forest, Belize
Belize Laguna Seca – Yalbac REDD+ Program
About the Project
The Belize Laguna Seca – Yalbac REDD+ Program protects two key properties in the Belize Maya Forest: The Laguna Seca and Yalbac properties, encompassing a total of 88,181 hectares of forested land. Logging for timber production and agricultural expansion poses a particular threat to the forests of the Project Area. Before a portion of the property was sold to The Forested Land Group, the previous owner had plans to sell this area for agricultural production of sugar cane for a new sugar/electricity facility. The implementation of this sugar cane farm would have caused considerable deforestation, resulting in the release of carbon emissions and negatively impacting biodiversity in and around the project area. Thankfully, expected carbon finance allowed the owners of the property to avoid going forward with the sugar cane project, and instead, set aside the property for conservation.
Key project activities, aimed at reducing deforestation and forest degradation, include frequent patrols of the project area in order to prevent illegal timber harvest and illegal hunting. Additionally, frequent monitoring efforts will be implemented, in order to ensure that project activities are successful and that our objectives are being met. The project has three principal objectives:
- Mitigation of carbon emissions by preserving the forests of the three properties and maintaining them as effective carbon sinks
- Providing net positive community benefits through scholarship funding and alternative livelihood options, and
- Contributing to biodiversity conservation by protecting forests and maintaining ecosystem health
The community benefits will include new employment opportunities related to increased support for alternative livelihoods, monitoring of program activities, and increased access to improved agricultural inputs and mechanisms that support innovative livelihood strategies. Hunting activities will be met with increased patrolling, of which community members would be trained to carry out, increasing the safety of the area, and decreasing the human/wildlife conflict as well. Fire management practices will be introduced as part of Program Activities, decreasing the occurrence of these destructive fires and the ecological loss that follows. Communities near the Program Area will also experience benefits from the improvements in their immediate environment, including increased biodiversity, access to water resources, as the Program protects the local watershed, and increased awareness of conservation initiatives and forest cover and how this benefits their overall well-being.
The biodiversity of the project area is well documented and world-renowned. It has been designated as a key biodiversity area (KBA) and is home to the densest population of large cats in Central America. In addition to large cats, there are notable populations of Baird’s Tapir, Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys, and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys, all of which are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List. Many other rare species are commonly found at the project site, including 24 species listed by the IUCN above “least concern.”
The implementation of this REDD+ project is a crucial step to preserving the biodiversity of the project area. Without the project, much of the property would have been deforested to plant sugar cane, eliminating the vast majority of the biodiversity in the area and likely impacting the biodiversity of surrounding areas as well. Thankfully, however, the project has avoided the construction of this farm and will stive to maintain the exceptional biodiversity of this area.
The primary climate objective of the Belize Laguna Seca – Yalbac REDD+ Program is to mitigate emissions from the deforestation and forest degradation. Particularly in South America, deforestation resulting from agricultural expansion is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the project seeks to reduce emissions by preserving and maintaining forests as carbon sinks. Activities to support these objectives include frequent patrols of the forests to prevent instances of illegal logging and hunting operations. Additionally, the project area will be regularly monitored, in order to ensure that our interventions are successful.
Another key component of our climate objectives is to help community members adapt to changes in climate and changes in their surrounding environment. The primary method used to achieve this goal will be increasing access to education for children in the local villages. Support of high school education for community members will make it more likely that the upcoming generation will fully understand the implications of climate change and their role in adapting to and mitigating the predicted effects.