Every day, Belize’s population add a few more people. Every day, we are challenged to feed, house and employ more and more Belizeans. Every day, we have to address the issue of poverty and improving the welfare of thousands of Belizeans in the rural areas. All this we have to do with finite natural resources. The officers at the Ya’axche Conservation Trust in Toledo are leading the way. They are working with hundreds of farmers and their families to improve their lives using the natural resources right around them while at the same time, doing so without degrading those very same resources. As a matter of fact, they have been reclaiming land resources that have basically been written off. The fact that they carry out this monumental task quietly on a daily basis is what makes them heroes in my book.
Any student who wants to learn about natural resource management, poverty reduction, rural development, household economy, biodiversity, food security, climate change adaptation, agro-ecology, agroforestry should visit the work these hard working officers are doing. With limited resources and a bit of human ingenuity, these guys are doing this work in real life, with real people. Using their skills and their own creativity, these guys have taken a small part of the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve and have transformed it into a productive agroforestry landscape. They do their work diligently and motivated solely by their wish to demonstrate that you can develop a sustainable rural economy that provides real benefits and maintain the integrity of the environment and biodiversity
Julio is from Big Falls; my village I must proudly say. Gustavo is from San Pedro Colombia and Eugenio is from San Antonio. Together they make the dream team of YCT's livelihoods programme. Each bring a unique skill set but together they bring commitment and passion to working with farmers and the environment. Over the years they have turned the Maya farmers of northern Toledo in the Inga alley cropping experts. This simple and inexpensive but effective technology of using leguminous trees to develop healthy soils and restore degraded lands should win them an award somewhere. Farmers who were skeptical that such a simple Inga tree can be so effective are now die-hard converts. The benefits keep piling up; from easy firewood source to getting rid of invasive grass that have taken over their plots. Of course Inga builds the soil and fixes nitrogen into the soil. Today they have more people interested in this farming technology than they are able to support. There is only three of them after all.
From early morning until late at night, Julio, Gustavo and Eugenio are out there working with farmers teaching them new ways of doing things. They give up their weekends, leave their families behind, and go above and beyond to get the job done. They deserve not just our admiration but our respect. They have been helping farmers adapt to the ever pressing issue of climate change. They are doing everything they can to improve the lives of people and protect the environment that all Belizeans are proud to boast of. This cannot happen on its own however. It is people like Julio, Gustavo and Eugenio who make this happen. These guys are the heroes that you don’t know about. Respect. Job well done.