The Reporter | Taiwan & PADF help Dangriga prepare for Climate Change & disasters

Published on August 2, 2015

Over 11,000 people in southern Belize are benefitting from a new Coastal Community Resiliency initiative being implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), with financial support from Taiwan.

The PADF has partnered with the University of Belize and the Belize Red Cross in a 13-month project to help Belizeans in vulnerable areas like Dangriga and Hopkins to become resilient in their response to disasters and Climate Change adaptation, and to take a community-based approach to protect and promote the sustainable management of their coastal zone resources and their livelihoods.

PADF Senior Programs Director Caterina Valero, PADF Belize Director Minerva Pinelo and Taiwan’s Ambassador to Belize, H.E. Benjamin Ho joined Dangriga Town Mayor Francis Humphreys in launching the project at the Pelican Beach Resort in Dangriga Town on Tuesday, July 28.

PADF’s Minerva Pinelo explained the three-pronged approach, of first building human resource capacities through training to assess their needs. The project is training the locals in the use of Geographic Positioning Systems (GPS), to develop to GIS maps for Dangriga and Hopkins. It is also equipping and training two Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). Fisher folk, tour guides and others with a vested interest in the area’s economic development are being trained to manage the natural resources of the coastal zone for sustainable livelihoods.

To help the locals prepare for disasters, the PADF project is also helping them develop and establish early warning systems and to plan for all contingencies and multiple hazards. This includes training of the tourism sector in contingency planning.

The project will also finance the construction of climate resilient infrastructure and strategies for Climate Change adaptation. This includes building storm drains, seawalls and breakwalls to mitigate wave energy. The project will also work to restore ecosystems such as reforesting mangroves and coconut groves to prevent coastal erosion. The initiative includes educational campaigns to promote and organize community clean-up events.

Climate change and rising sea levels pose a serious threat to Dangriga’s infrastructure and tourism developments. Mayor Humphreys helped the PADF identify the priority areas where storm drainage will be built such as the New Site area of Danagriga; and other projects that would also yield an economic return. Humphreys identified the Dangriga Town commerce pier, which is in a sad state of disrepair. The project proposes to dismantle the old, wooden pier and sink ferro-concrete pylons into the sea to support a new, extended pier which will be built 200 feet longer to reach water deep enough to accommodate large vessels. The present pier has silted up and the water is to shallow and accommodating deep-draft vessels would require dredging, a most undesirable solution.

The Education campaign will be spear-headed by the Ignacia Cacho Library in Dangriga, which PADF Senior Director Caterina Valero and Taiwan’s Ambassador Benjamin Ho visited along with Honduran ambassador Sandra Rosales Abella, and Librarian Beverly Marin. At the launch, Ambassador Sandra Rosales had testified to the Honduran experience with the PADF in building resilience to disasters, through community training and development programs and building of appropriate infrastructure.

Founded in 1962, the PADF is an affiliate of the organization of American States (OAS) works to execute socio-economic development prms and assist in disaster relief in Latin America and the Caribbean; last year alone, the PADF reached over 15 million people in 27 countries. Their mission is to assist vulnerable and excluded people and communities to achieve sustainable economic and social progress, strengthening their civil societies, promoting democratic participation and inclusion, and to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other humanitarian crises, in line with OAS principles to create a “Hemisphere of Opportunity for All”.