The University of Belize hosts symposium Print E-mail
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Friday, 07 June 2019 00:00

The University of Belize Campus in Belmopan recently hosted the 12th Natural Resource Management and Research Symposium. It was held under the theme: “Belize, ‘Through the Bottleneck’.”

With sponsorship from the Belize Chapter of the Mesoamerican Society, the University of Belize, the Wildlife Conservation Society and others, the two day event achieved its objective in sharing knowledge that can be utilized for National development. “One of our contributions at the moment is where we are able to listen to people who have been working in Belize, present their work and that makes us aware of all the work that is happening in this field of Natural Resources Management and things like working in the communities to make sure that the work on the seed banks and all these other things to try and start putting together solutions,” says Dr. Elma Kay, the current Science Director  for the Environmental Research Institute at the University of Belize.

In one of the interesting lectures, Lisel Alamilla, the Chair of the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission described the Maya Customary Lands in Belize. In considering any aspect of conservation in that area of Belize, “you have to face this…you need to become engaged,” she said.

In  case of the Maya Leaders Alliance v. A.G. of Belize, the Caribbean Court of Justice, inter alia, accepted the undertaking of the Government of Belize (“GoB”), made in the Consent Order of April 22, 2015, to adopt affirmative measures “to create an effective mechanism to identify and protect the property and other rights arising from Maya customary land tenure, in accordance with Maya customary laws and land tenure practices.”

The Toledo Land Rights Commission sits under the Attorney General Ministry. In considering customary land tenure that affect 39 Maya Villages in Belize’s South, they are acknowledged under rules of engagement from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

In another of the lectures that we attended, there was consideration of biodiversity and conservation of indigenous seeds in Maya Communities of the Toledo District as presented by Anton Peller from Ohio State University and Catherine Smith from the University of Edinburgh.

As we learned, the biodiversity and conservation of Belizean crop species is a critical area of scientific research and public action. Across the world, crop genetic resources are rapidly declining: according to the FAO, approximately 90% of ‘local’ crop varieties (also called ‘landrace’, ‘heirloom’, ‘peasant’, or ‘Indigenous’ crops) disappeared from farmers’ fields during the 20th century. These ancient, living seeds are invaluable members of earth’s biological diversity, just like the flora and fauna protected in Belize’s parks. The scientific consensus is that intra-specific crop diversity supports higher crop yields. At the same time, many farmers and scientists argue that crop diversity is intimately tied to rural livelihoods and climate change adaptation.