The Government and people of Belize have recognised the importance of Belize’s natural resources as the foundation “brick and mortar” of Belize’s development. Key sectors such as agriculture, tourism, fisheries and forestry (all natural resource based) have contributed to more than 49% of Belize’s GDP in 2016 (SIB 2016). However, Belize – which gained its independence in 1981 from Great Britain – is still a young and developing country. It is expected that economic growth in the country will result in increased pressures on natural capital. It is envisioned BIOFIN in Belize will add great value by facilitating the process of providing decision makers in environmental management, finance and planning with economic information about the value and trade-offs among different policies and investment choices, including evaluating how valuable ecosystem services may be affected by changes in ecosystems and how they can provide increased revenue to the Belizean economy.
Prioritised finance solutions?
Investments in the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserves
In an effort to reduce fishing pressures on Belize’s marine resources and diversify economic opportunities for local communities, a multi-agency effort in southern Belize led to the development and implementation of a seaweed production initiative in the Gladden Spit and Silk Caye Marine Reserves. Through an agreement between the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Forest, Fisheries, and Sustainable Development, Placencia Producers Cooperative Society Limited, and the Southern Environmental Association a “Special Development Area” was established with the marine protected areas enabling the establishment of commercial seaweed (Euchuema isiforme and Gracilaria spp) farming initiative. This Special Development Areas within the Reserves serves as a farm for seaweed only and remains a no-take zone for other species.
Currently, seaweed produced is being supplied to the local and international food industry. Efforts are being made to expand to the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. As a result of the Initiative, training manuals were development for scaling up of seaweed farming nationally. Similar opportunities are being explored in the Corozal Bay in northern Belize. In addition, countries, such as Columbia, have also shown interest in the Initiative and made visits to Belize to understudy the Cooperative Society.
This effort has been replicated with even more success in the Turneffe with the support from the Fisheries Department, Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association. (Future work will look at exploring the institutional framework of the Turneffe sea weed farming model).
Chen and Ganapin (2016) and Global Environmental Facility – Small Grants Programme (2016)
The nature of BIOFIN implementation in Belize, makes it uniquely positioned to influence policy. Through a joint collaboration assessment between the Protected Areas Trust of Belize and the BIOFIN initiative, an assessment of the current environment for investments in protected areas has recommended critical policy changes. These changes are in line with changes in tax incentives for public/private partnerships and other investments in protected areas and the re-positioning of the Ministry’s operational structure to facilitate biodiversity investments, among others. These have set the stage for the BIOFIN PIR which is currently in the final stages of data collection and analysis. The PIR continues to be highly consultative and participatory process in Belize.
A desktop review of the priority sectors for carrying out this assessment is on the way. The BER is currently reviewing existing data sources and sectoral focal points for facilitating the BER implementation.
The NBSAP for Belize has been developed and was endorsed by Cabinet in 2016. The team is currently carrying out a desktop review of the NBSAP and other development frameworks for prioritisation of targets within the NBSAP.
BIOFIN Belize is undertaking a desktop review of priority targets within the NBSAP, as well as the cataloguing of current Finance Solutions and areas of recommendation for policy and regulatory reform in Belize.