In response to the new strategy for management, conservation, and sustainable development of Belize’s forests, the Government has developed a new National Forest Policy in 2015. The policy aims to a thriving and integrated forest sector, where the forests of Belize are valued for their significant economic, socio-cultural and environmental benefits, and are sustainably managed for the lasting benefit of the Nation.The specific objectives of the National Forest Policy are to: (i) enhance the quality and productivity of Belize’s forests thereby ensuring environmental integrity and a sustained flow of goods and services to meet the development needs of the people; (ii) encourage the participation of all stakeholders in the planning and decision making process for effective protection, security, management and development of the forest resources; (iii) ensure equitable access to and use of forest resources by all persons within the confines of any over-riding public interest, acknowledging the equal and inalienable rights of all Belizeans; (iv) raise awareness and maintain a high level of consciousness among the public and government agencies on the functionality of forests and benefits to be derived from appropriate forest resource conservation and sustainable forest management; (v) enhance applied research and investigation into all aspects of the forest’s flora and fauna; (vi) provide guidance for actions to be taken with regards to the direct and indirect threats posed by global climate change on forests and forest dependent people in order to reduce their vulnerability, increase their resilience and adapt to climate change.In order to make agriculture and forestry more productive and sustainable, the Government will endeavour to reduce deforestation and forest degradation through the following strategies: (i) promote land usage and planning which contributes to the establishment and maintenance of forests for timber, biodiversity and ecological services, and forest connectivity with emphasis on abandoned and degraded lands, urban areas and agricultural lands; (ii) promote the development of agroforestry in forest areas which directly buffer community lands where the pressure for agriculture expansion may be strongest thereby maximizing the economic output of forest buffers; (iii) manage forest lands in a way that conserves and enhances biodiversity; (iv) develop capacity of institutions such as local governments, traditional institutions and user groups and to sustainably manage private forests; (v) promote the establishment of a replanting programme for native species used for crafts based on paucity of species; (vi) promote the establishment of small forest products processing enterprises and (vii) promote reforestation/afforestation and forest rehabilitation to increase the forest density for timber and carbon capturing capacity.To enable inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems, the NFP plans to promote the introduction of eco-labelling, certification and sustainable sourcing measures among private supply-chain actors. Access to land of women and indigenous people is one of the key issues addressed by the Policy. Another measure envisaged is to enhance capacity of individuals including land owners, women's and youth groups, to develop agroforestry initiatives through the management of private forests and integration of trees into farming systems.With a view to increasing the resilience of livelihoods to disasters, the NFP plans to implement a number of strategies to reduce deforestation, forest degradation and to manage forest biodiversity. These strategies include: (i) implementing a strategy for the management of invasive alien species, including prevention and early detection; and response, which includes eradication, containment, control and mitigation, (ii) managing forest lands in a way that conserves and enhances biodiversity; (iii) developing and promoting awareness, educational and community mobilization programmes to promote good integrated land use practices in hilly areas, and protect watersheds from degradation.In the context of governance, the institutional framework for the forest sector will be strengthened to implement the Forest Policy. This will be based on:(i) the reform of Governments' roles and responsibilities; (ii) a greatly increased role for the private sector, local communities, and non-governmental organizations; (iii) new approaches to the development and strengthening of civil society through local community institutions and associations; (iv) redefined relationships between organizations in the sector, and the establishment of a better legal basis for these through contractual or service agreements, tendering, and partnership agreements between state and civil society organizations.
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