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The Belize Cacao Agroforestry Handbook

500 copies of the handbook are now available in Belize

500 copies were produced in the first handbook printing.

The Belize Cacao Agroforestry Handbook is now complete and available in Belize. A joint effort between BFREE and UNC Wilmington’s Department of Environmental Studies with significant input from experts at the Cocoa Research Centre at the University of the West Indies, the handbook describes the benefits of sustainable agriculture for humans, wildlife and forests.

The 70-page manual is filled with illustrations and simple descriptions intended to guide farmers through the basics of land preparation, nursery management, planting, maintenance, harvest and post-harvest. The ‘Resource,’ section of the Handbook includes checklists, management schedules, and cultivation records, to help farmers track their farm activity and keep on schedule throughout the year. The hope is that this new handbook will provide a comprehensive resource for cacao farmers whether just starting out or experienced, and help promote organic cacao-based agroforestry practices as an alternative to traditional agriculture that often required clearing of rainforest and intensive agro-chemical inputs.

Five hundred handbooks were produced during the initial printing and will be made available to farmers in the Toledo District through farmer cooperatives, during meetings and workshops, in farm supply stores in Punta Gorda, at this year’s Chocolate Festival of Belize, and at the BFREE field station. In late January, the first books were distributed to BFREE staff who will share them with their village leaders and community members.

Partial funding for the Belize Cacao-based Agroforestry and Restoration Project (BCARP) is provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, on behalf of the Nyanza Natural Resource Damage Trustee Council – comprised of the Service, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

BFREE staff with Belize Cacao Agroforestry Handbook

BFREE Staff members pose with their copies of The Belize Cacao Agroforestry Handbook in January 2017 at the BFREE Field Station.      Standing from Left to Right – Carmelita Shol|San Felipe Village; Patron Coc|San Marcos Village; Apolonio Pop| Santa Cruz; Jacob Marlin| BFREE; Pedro Rash| Indian Creek.    Seated from Left to Right – Thomas Pop|Golden Stream Village, Thomas Chub|Indian Creek; Elmer Tzalam|Golden Stream Village; and Cesario Pop|Silver Creek.

 

First Sighting of Harpy Eagle at BFREE!

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September 9, 2016. At approximately 11:30 am, Tom Pop, Manager of the HCRC at BFREE, was doing routine work at the turtle ponds when he heard a bird call above him. Because of his training as an avian technician and his work with the BFREE bird project, Tom immediately recognized the call as that of a Harpy eagle. He quickly looked up toward the sound and identified the bird perched above him in a tall tree overlooking the ponds.

During the next several hours, Tom, and BFREE staff members Amarta (Maya) Choc and Sipriano Canti observed and photographed the large raptor. Eventually, it flew from its perch and moved through the cacao agroforest toward the BFREE kitchen where it was observed for about an hour before disappearing farther into the forest. Analysis of the pictures taken shows that the bird is a sub-adult, likely about 1.5 years old, providing evidence that the small population in the Maya Mountains is continuing to grow.

The presence of the Harpy Eagle at BFREE is big news in Belize.

The Harpy eagle is the largest bird of prey in the Americas but habitat loss and hunting have eliminated the raptor throughout most of its range across Mexico and Central America. Harpy Eagles are classified as extremely rare and endangered in Belize. Back in 2000 they were thought to be extirpated from the area, but were rediscovered in 2005 by BFREE and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington researchers.

BFREE staff  have reported a drastic increase in wildlife around the BFREE reserve recently, including large cats like pumas and jaguars, and other wildlife like peccaries and tapirs. As settlement in surrounding villages has increased, and forested areas near BFREE have decreased due to agricultural expansion, the BFREE preserve continues to play a vital role as a sanctuary for wildlife in southern Belize.

If you live in a community near BFREE and you spot a bird that might be a Harpy eagle, please call call or text Liberato Pop at 665-3788. Please be prepared to tell us where you saw the bird, what it was doing and at what time of day. Please do not try to scare or harm the bird.

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For more info on Harpy eagle research at BFREE:

First Record of a Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) Nest in Belize

Author(s): James A. Rotenberg, Jacob A. Marlin, Liberato Pop, and William Garcia
Source: The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 124(2):292-297. 2012.
Published By: The Wilson Ornithological Society

Integrated Community-based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program

Between 2006 and 2014, BFREE and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington established and implemented an intensive Harpy Eagle and avian monitoring program onsite in the BFREE private reserve and in the Bladen Nature Reserve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX5TXeGwMqo

“Wings of Hope,” is a 20 minute documentary chronicling the re-discovery of a population of wild Harpy Eagles in the Maya Mountains of southern Belize

“Wings of Hope” premiere in Gainesville, Florida

In US for BFREE’s home town of Gainesville, Florida our documentary “Wings of Hope” was shown at the 7th annual Cinema Verde International Film Festival. The festival showcased over 30 films from around the world with a goal “to increase public awareness about environmental practices that enhance public health and that improve the quality of life for all.” The Festival also served as a forum for community organizations, businesses, and citizens to discuss ways to work together to create a sustainable culture.

Juvenile harpy eagle - Photo by Kai Reed

Juvenile harpy eagle – Photo by Kai Reed

“Wings of Hope,” is a 20-minute documentary that chronicles the re-discovery of a population of wild Harpy Eagles in the Maya Mountains of southern Belize. The documentary showcases the history of the BFREE and University of North Carolina, Wilmington initiative born from this discovery – the Integrated Community-based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program. Created by Emmy-award winning filmmakers, Richard and Carol Foster of Wildlife Film Productions, and narrated by Jacob Marlin, this film is rich with breath-taking footage of adult and juvenile Harpy eagles and other wildlife and vistas found in the pristine tropical forests of the Bladen Nature Reserve. Over the seven year duration of the project, the Fosters followed project trainees William Garcia, Liberato Pop, Alejandro Cholum and Thomas Pop as they work to learn about and ultimately protect this rare bird and its diminishing habitat.

BFREE was honored to have “Wings of Hope” shown as part of the Cinema Verde International Film Festival at the Hippodrome State Theater. Following the film, BFREE Director Jacob Marlin along with members of the Alachua Audubon Society answered questions from viewers about harpy eagles, migratory birds and how we can all work together to best protect them.


Haven’t seen “Wings of Hope”? Watch it here.