PEOPLE AND NATURE CAN CO-EXIST
WHY WE EXIST
Our symbol, the ceiba tree or Ya’axché (pronounced YASH-cheh), represents the interconnectedness of all living things, as is the belief of the ancient Maya. This is the foundation of the organisation’s program and supporting activities. Ya’axché was created based on communities’ need to utilise their natural resources sustainably so that it could continue to serve them and future generations. Ya’axché believes that people can gain access to healthy food, clean water, adequate shelter, and money to support their families without depleting the natural resources for future generations. Therefore, we exist to serve communities and the environment. We are working alongside the communities to ensure healthy forests, rivers with high species richness (biodiversity) as well as resilient communities within the Maya Golden Landscape and beyond.
Ya’axché Conservation Trust (Ya’axché) was founded in 1998 by a consortium of local leaders. The impetus for creating the organization was to safeguard a natural corridor connecting the forests of the Maya Mountains with the lowland forests of the Caribbean coastal plains. This corridor was purchased and named the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (GSCP).
The young organization then signed a 12-year institutional Memorandum of Understanding with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the world’s oldest conservation organization based out of Cambridge, United Kingdom that same year. This allowed us to access international donors and technical expertise and advice. A year later, Ya’axché secured its first one-year grant from the IUCN to establish administrative aspects of the organization to formalise the organisation.
Ya’axché proved to be successful in managing GSCP and therefore was asked by the Government of Belize to co-manage the ‘crown jewel of Belize’, Bladen Nature Reserve in 1998. Then, in 2015, Ya’axché was also granted co-management rights for the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve, a key biodiversity area. These protected areas are managed under the organisation’s Protected Area Management Program which ensures that its biodiversity remains intact.
In an effort to ensure our approach to conservation was as holistic as possible, Ya’axché created a program alongside its Protected Area Management Program, called the Community Outreach and Livelihoods Program, to foster sustainable livelihoods of the local people who buffer the protected areas. It focuses on building capacity for increased community participation in natural resource management.
Ya’axché continues to be creative in its approach through actions – adopting the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), implementing sustainable financing initiatives such as EcoTourism Belize, and obtaining the permit for the first agroforestry concession in Belize.
Ya’axché now manages 770,000 acres across its focal area called the Maya Golden Landscape. Within this landscape, it manages three protected areas and works with eight communities in an effort to achieve its vision of achieving harmony between nature and human development.