Subject Thanks for follow up RE: brainstorming: 40 acre property in Belize
From Pat Coyle
Dear Mr. Edilberto Romero:
Eddie, Thanks you for the thoughtful response.
You make many good points that we will take into consideration.
We would like very much to coordinate with you and others, to ensure our activities in the community benefit from your expertise and valuable experience.
I will spend more time going over your points and be back in touch.
------- Original Message -------
On 11/29/2005 7:53 PM wrote:
Dear Mr. Pat Coyle:
Thanks for copying Programme for Belize on your email to Ruth
and Jodie. Please note that Wilber Sabido is no longer with
Programme for Belize. He has moved to greener pastures, and is
now the Chief Forest Officer, at the Forest Department, in the
Ministry of Natural Resources. Dareece Chuc is now our Acting
I am the Executive Director of Programme for Belize and since I
was born and grew at August Pine Ridge, I took a moment to look
at your proposal.
The huge issue at August Pine Ridge is the lack of opportunity for
work and viable businesses and industries. The low level of
education limits the people at the chances of getting skilled jobs
and entrepreneurial initiatives. Your Conceptual Project seems to
address this and to look at sustainable development and "care for
the environment". "In Principle" Programme for Belize believes the
concept is a good idea.
I do not agree with Ruth's joke that there are many NGO's but I do
agree that sometimes they get into each others way. However,
this only happens when there is no coordinated effort, due to their
desperate nature of, the communities take advantage, and when
some organizations try to re-invent the wheel. In fact, the situation
is quite the opposite in the area of August Pine Ridge. There is
practically no NGO activity addressing the needs of the area.
Programme for Belize has August Pine Ridge as a stakeholder due
to its relation to Rio Bravo and the need to keep them friendly and
supportive of Rio Bravo as a protected area. Although, we have
done a lot on the past, and have had successes and failures, there
is very little we are presently doing at August Pine Ridge. This has
to do more with the availability of funding rather than interest on our
That said, I would like to state that some of the components of the
project are similar to the work of Programme for Belize in certain
areas: Sustainable Development, Ecotourism, Education,
promoting the sustainable socie-economic development of the
communities. We also have a freshwater program, but nothing on
sanitation, health and nutrition program. Your project, apparently,
is also interested in looking at sanitation, health,etc. and sheep
and goat operation although it does not elaborate on the former
aspects. Programme for Belize has teamed up in the past with the
Belize Family Life Association on a community population and
environment project which aimed at promoting reproductive health
and natural resource management. It was a very successful
project but too short as the funding was just available for one year.
Sustainable development is something Programme for Belize has
been experimenting over the past years and we have done a lot of
progress and have gathered a wealth of experience and lessons.
Ecotourism is now covering 50% of our operations cost and has
met both of our sustinability criteria: 1.) It must leave the
biodiversity and environmental service of the forest unaltered; and
2.) It must be economically feasible. This is not always easy to
obtain as there is always a certain level of trade-off between each
other. We have also made significant progress on our sustainable
timber extraction and we have experimented on many other
There are also organizations who have experience on some of the
activities being proposed in your project:
4-H on sheep, not sure about goats.
The Ministry of Agriculture, sheep (I think they are no longer doing
it and I do not know the reason why).
Help for Progress on the community development, gender and
I think the ecotourism aspect is a good one as we have proven it to
be viable but it needs a minimum number of beds to be feasible. It
is unfortunately out of the reach of the community as there are a
number of factors required for it to be successful:
1. The initial finance. High and not easily accessible by the
2. Good quality facilities that can only come if you have the
3. Good quality services. can easily be obtained with training.
4. Good management skills and bookkeeping. Can be developed
but it is a little more difficult and takes more time and investment.
5. Good market. This is key to success as having the previous
ones alone those not guarantee success.
In general, there are a lot of things that can be produced in the
August Pine Ridge area and indeed has been done in the past.
When it comes to agriculture the people from the area are the best.
Besides, finance, I think the largest limiting factor has been
marketing. That is one of the main reason why people are still
growing sugarcane eventhough its feasibility is very low and prizes
are going lower (expected to decrease by 17% in 2006 and 2007).
However, it provides a certain level of autoemployment. The people
from the area has successfully produced peanuts, rice, beans,
corn, various vegetables, but has not been successful business-
wise mostly because of the lack of market availability. Their most
recent lost has been in soybean production. My point here is that
the feasibility study is required for every aspect of the project since
the production is possible.
Sheep and goat has been raised by some people of August Pine
Ridge successfully in terms of production. However, I think it has
not picked up because of the limited market availability. A market
study on this would be worthwhile if you are serious about getting
into sheep and goat as a sustainable business operation. I think
that is the first thing that has to be looked on and a feasibility
analysis of the operation.
The aquaculture is a good one although I must mention that
Programme for Belize does not support Tilapia farming since it is
an exotic invasive species and we do not know yet the extent of its
impact (if any) on the fresh waters and native species of Belize.
We would prefer to see aquaculture of native species (which has
been overfished in the local waters) and for which there is a market.
Another activity that I have mentioned to some of the area
representatives is furniture or value-added timber products.
Programme for Belize is producung FSC Certified Sustainable
Timber and is ineterested in promoting certified timber and value
added timber products. It would be good for Programme for Belize
and for the long-term protection of Rio Bravo if a community like
August Pine Ridge can develop the skills, and a business in
certified furniture and timber products using certified timber from
Rio Bravo. Currently, however, Programme for Belize does not
have the finance to get the community started on this. A project
like yours can take advantage of this opportunity. At this time,
Programme for Belize has as an agreement to sell its certified
lumber to three sawmills but reserves the right to retain production
beyond estimated levels and to repurchase part of it for value-added
processing and/or marketing. There are some people from August
Pine Ridge that are already doing furnitures. I believe the number
of people involved in furniture and value added timber products can
be increased with training in a center like the one you are
We have to field stations. La Milpa Field Station is used for
ecotourism, education, non-extractive research and archaeological
research and is a successful project. The Hill Bank Field Station
is the base for forestry reserach, protection activities and
education. The Hill Bank ecotourims facilities are underutilized and
it is not generating excess revenues but providing essential
services for the protection and management of Rio Bravo. It is
expensive to run a field station. Therefore it is important to carry a
feasibility study or alternatively to invest in an already existing field
stations, like ours, for training.
Electricity and fuel is very expensive here in Belize. It would be
wise to consider the use of a solar system or a dual system when
the area get to cloudy.
In closing, I would like to say that while we think the concept is
good in principle, it needs a lot more work in terms of assessing
market and the feasibility of the project if what you are thinking is
to have a sustainable running operation. If that is not what you are
thinking then you may not need to go through all of that but I also
believe it is no use in training people in an operation of which they
will not make money to get out of poverty when they go on their
own to implement the skills they have learned.
Own our part, Programme for Belize, while it supports the project in
principle, can only get invloved if its cost of participation is covered.
Unfortunately, we do not count with surplus funds to get involved
into additionaly activities at the moment although we have
expertise and valuable experience that can be useful to your
25 Nov 2005, at 12:26, Pat Coyle wrote:
Ruth and Jodie,
Sorry about the delay in getting back to you. Thanks for both of your
prompt replies expressing your interest. I am working full time, so
attending to this initiative is a nights and weekends effort and my
replies are not always as prompt as I would like.
I really appreciate your willingness to take a look at the initial
materials I have at http://belizeopensource.jot.com
Ruth, I was so struck by your talk at the Seattle EWB session and our
brief chat at break. Your family's many years of working in Belize,
your ongoing visits taking students there, your experience in Jamaica
and Africa, will be extremely helpful.
I'd love for you to get involved in this project. I think you could
be a major player in making it work as an ongoing and sustainable
initiative. When you spoke, I was reminded again about the importance
of the skills you bring to bear in community mobilization,
organizing. and working with the community to get their involvement
and commitment. Since you are planning ongoing work in Belize, it
seems almost too good to be true.
Jodie, you have so many things to contribute. I'd love for you to get
involved. I was struck by the following points in your email:
Training at Seattle University and University Of Washington's Advance
Standing Master of Social Work Program with emphasis this year on
local community development
Emphasis on the importance of community building via collaborative
efforts to improve the well-being of local Belizeans with local
Travel-based experience, in Belize and Guatemala, that engaging local
communities in the region you want to work or build in is vital to
the success of your efforts - and the just and right thing to do
Interest in the ideas about planting and stocking (sheep) as a way to
support local agri-business vs profit for the land owner without
regard for native populations
Interest to become involved with an organization or project where the
mission really is about sustainable community development with a
preference for Belize or Guatemala
Interest in gaining practical experience working internationally
Want to be involved with the project
Currently working on a paper in Globalization course that is
analyzing the dynamics of the cruise line industry and the impacts on
Belize City's local economy
Open to be involved in a dialog with others about this
Manuel and Elda Soliz in August Pine Ridge are helping me. I spoke
with Elda and let her know you travel to Belize and may contact her.
They can be reached at 323-3010. They can show you or others the
property. Natalio Soliz, Manuel's nephew, has email and can be
reached at Natalio Soliz .
Another good contact is Mrs. Blanca Esquival, Women's Group Arts and
Crafts Friends of Lamanai Gift Shop (at the lamanai riuns site). She
and Elda are friends and she has been leading this initiative for
women for some years. Her numbers are: 309-1015, 603-7243, and
Eric Coleman is also assisting me. He is in Belize City and can be
reached at 203-2848. We just arranged to get another 100 of Mr.
Sylvestre's improved selected cashew seedlings. With the 50 we
obtained in August, this will give us 150 for an initial planting.
We have discussed cashews and other tree and crop options with Thomas
Tillett, Ministry of Agriculture, who visited the site to assess the
initial cashew trees planted in '77.
Enrique Rivas, formerly with Ministry of Agriculture and now Director
and manager of reforestation at the Bante's NGO for bird
rehabilitation in Cayo, visited the site and discussed overall
approaches to the use of the property.
Mr. Sabido, with Programme for Belize, http://www.pfbelize.org/,
spoke with me about the their agro-reforestation project in San
Lazaro, about 10miles from the property. I was very impressed with
the people I talked with there during my August visit. He suggested
formation of a registered community group as a vehicle for potential
collaboration with government or NGO programs such as theirs. He also
indicated fencing the property and getting signs up is a way to begin
to establish a presence.
Mr. Haylock, also with Programme for Belize, was very helpful in
arranging for permission for us to drive from their facilities at La
Milpa, through Gallon Jug, and Yalbac during our August '05 visit,
The stay at La Milpa and the drive through that part of Belize was a
high point in our visit. I have also discussed the project with him
I also came across the Trees for the Future and talked briefly with
Dave Deppner at their MD, US, headquarters about the project and
their work described at http://www.treesftf.org/projects/belize.htm
I reached Frank Brechin in Belize who has volunteered for them. He
also has many years of experience with CARE outside, and for last 19
years, in Belize. He was very helpful and offered to refer me to
Thara Gamero Blanco, Trees for the Future Program Belize Coordinator,
and others who might be interested.
At the wiki site, http://belizeopensource.jot.com/CurrentDraft , the
attachments to the messages include a response to Mary Kimball,
Director, http://www.landbasedlearning.org/, about her suggestions to
clarify the proposal. She is very busy and may not be able to provide
feedback for a while. So I'd appreciate any feedback you might offer.
Then the proposal needs to be cleaned up. The tasks showing as
complete by the end of November need to be pushed out.
I see it as a critical part of the plan/solution to be able to have
it run with a management structure that does not require my presence,
so I am seeking ideas on how to put together a team to address this.
I think the the adjacent communities have many unmet needs that are
opportunities for the kinds of projects that might be of interest to
a number of groups.
My current priorities include getting people lined up who want to
participate and setting it up as a non-profit in the states and a NGO
Ruth, at Seattle, you joked that Belize has so many NGOs doing things
there that they sometimes get in each other's way. Do you think there
are alternative approaches we should consider? Otherwise getting the
documents drafted to form both entities is high on my priority list.
Please give it some thought and weigh in if you have suggestions on
that or anything else.
If there are people you think we should contact, please invite them
in. I think you have access to do so and to edit the site. Let me
know if you don't. This wiki tool is new to me.
Programme for Belize,
P.O. Box 749,
An Opportunity for Positive Action