Community Outreach and Livelihoods (COL)The Community Outreach and Livelihoods program aims to assist the local communities in the Maya Golden Landscape to improve their standard of living while maintaining the pristine environment of the area. The program achieves this through promotion of sustainable agriculture and micro-enterprise initiatives, environmental education and outreach, and fostering strong governance throughout the local communities.
Sustainable agricultureOne of the greatest threats to the forests and biodiversity of the Maya Golden Landscape is deforestation for agriculture. Unsustainable agricultural practices such as uncontrolled use of fire, excessive use of agrochemicals and cultivation of riverbanks and steep slopes are exacerbating this problem and causing pollution of the coral reefs downstream. To address these problems, Ya’axché is showing farmers that there are sustainable alternatives that can benefit them and the environment. Farming systems such as organic agroforestry based around cacao, organic vegetable production and organic bee-keeping increase farmer’s incomes while protecting the surrounding ecosystems.
Ya’axché assists small farmers to diversify their farmsYa’axché assists small farmers to diversify their farms and adopt these sustainable methods by providing training and start-up materials (tree saplings, irrigation equipment, bee-hives, etc.). Ya’axché also works with commercial farmers. Teaming up with WWF, Ya’axché has encouraged commercial citrus growers to switch from using herbicides to control weeds to using a cover crop to do the same job.
Ya'axché is actively promoting alternative cropping systems to the traditional slash-and-burn agriculture and has so far assisted 83 farmer families in establishing cacao-based agroforesty. | Photo: Erik Hammar.
EducationEducation can provide a path to understanding the importance of healthy ecosystems and the ways in which we can maintain them. Ya’axché recognizes that changes in attitudes and behaviors necessary to achieve sustainability do not happen overnight. As a result, the COL program runs a number of outreach initiatives for adults and children to bring about broad-based environmental awareness.
Changes in attitudes and behaviors do not happen overnightAmending unsustainable behavior is a two-way process, where Ya'axche disseminates information on threats of current unsustainable practices, but also listens to people's concerns about barriers that make alternative methods a challenging switch. Through community meetings, focus groups, and one-on-one exchanges, Ya'axche's Education and Outreach officers work along with the people to change unsustainable practices. To encourage community empowerment Ya'axche also provides governance training and support to community leaders, who in the end promote change in their villages.
Environmental education is an important part of the COL program. School trips are regularly arranged to both terrestrial and marine protected areas. | Photo: Erik Hammar.
Environmental education is a method of building knowledge of natural processes, while teaching how to think, rather than what to think. One of the successful methodologies is experiential learning through field trips to terrestrial and marine protected areas. Through these trips, the young people of the Maya Golden Landscape develop a better understanding of their local ecosystems, how these ecosystems contribute to their well-being and how human activities can impact them. Finally, Ya'axche promotes secondary education through our Scholarship program.