TIDE is partnering with the University of Edinburgh, the Belize Forest Department, University of Belize Environmental Research Institute, and the International Institute for Environment and Development on a Darwin Initiative-funded project to conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods in areas bordering the pine savanna woodlands in Toledo.
Pine woodland savannas in the Toledo district are fire-dependent ecosystems, but these ecosystems are often experiencing too much fire due to increasing numbers of escaped fires and wildfires as the climate becomes drier and warmer. Intense fires which occur later into the dry season are both reducing the biodiversity of these areas, for example by threatening the nesting sites of the endangered Yellow Headed Parrot that is endemic to these areas, but are also degrading the resource base such as the palmetto seed harvest which provides local communities with a valuable source of additional income in the dry season. Wildfire also poses a serious risk to people’s wooden houses, farms and health (heavy smoke load in in the dry season).
The project aims to engage local communities surrounding some of the pine woodlands and savannas in Toledo in stewardship that will help to conserve the biodiversity of these areas. This is being promoted firstly by providing training to members from the five communities of Bella Vista, Bladen, Medina Bank, San Isidro and Trio in safe use of agricultural fires, including training in carrying out prescribed burns during suitable weather conditions to reduce the risk of intense wildfire later in the dry season. The second part of the project aims to help these communities to develop viable small businesses that are based on a more sustainable use of the woodland resources and enhanced access to the protected areas of Bladen, Deep River and Paynes Creek National Park.