The Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve (MMNFR) community cacao agroforestry concession is Belize’s first community concession allowing local residents to access a protected area and become stewards of that area. The community agroforestry concession model could open the door for more community forestry within Belize, where forests are abundant but threats to their sustainability are increasing. Through the work of Ya’axché Conservation Trust, the Belize Forest Department, and Trio Farmers Cacao Growers, this concession became a reality in 2015 and is providing valuable lessons for the future.
The primary goal of the agroforestry concession is to strengthen the livelihoods of the Trio Farmers Cacao Growers Association members in a manner which reduces current threats to biodiversity and habitat loss (mainly due to illegal and unsustainable agricultural developments within the reserve) and maintain water catchment function and flood regulation functions within and outside the forest reserve. It is the hope that the presence of the concession and the increased attention will help to tackle the currently high rates of illegal resource extraction, forest degradation and deforestation and that systems will be put in place that will improve the protected area management effectiveness and widely contribute to Belize’s national protected areas system.