Wildlife friendly crops on the Conservation Coast
About the project:
The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has identified the Izabal Department region between Honduras and Belize, also called the “Conservation Coast,” as a priority for migratory bird conservation. Over the past decade 65% of the original forest cover has been lost in this region, long under the pressures of deforestation and unsustainable land use. ABC and our partner FUNDAECO are working to protected the remaining blocks of forest and are working to develop agroforestry programs in the buffer zones of the protected areas to provide further habitat for migratory birds.
Its variety of ecosystems has made the Conservation Coast one of the Guatemalas’s biodiversity hotspots, harboring almost 50% of the country’s biodiversity, including 57 species of amphibians (including multiple AZE species), 89 reptiles, and 471 bird species, of which over 100 are migratory. Due to its extremely high biological value for birds and biodiversity, ABC has been working in this region over the past five years with local partner Foundation for Eco-Development and Conservation (FUNDAECO) in the creation and management of a regional network of protected areas. ABC has assisted with the acquisition of multiple properties protecting over 3,360 hectares at key sites for migratory birds. Since 2014 ABC has helped FUNDACO purchase and protect 2,354 of these hectares with the support of Southern Wings. Together we are now expanding from our “protected area” conservation strategy to a “landscape” strategy to work with farmers and producers of various products to increase forest cover in and around protected areas within the birdscape.
To address the drivers of forest loss and promote restoration of forest cover, we are establishing an agroforestry program with local landowners that produce wildlife-friendly crops and products, such as black pepper, cardamom, rubber, cacao, and mahogany along the Conservation Coast. Initial financial analysis of these products are promising. Over the next 10 to 15 years we aim to positively impact as many as 40,000 ha through successful implementation of agroforestry production systems.
Our strategy will include an investment program to direct funding to production methods that improve land use and habitat conditions and produce financial returns for landowners and investors.
Big and small landowners require different support to create the desired ecological and financial changes. ABC and FUNDAECO will identify and implement solutions for working with landowners of different size classes. Part of our program will include the development of BioCenters, which will act as training grounds for other landowners as they will be demonstration sites for the use of different methods production of different crops. Additionally, we are currently monitoring agroforestry models that use native species for their benefits to birds and financial outputs.
The results of this work will lead to an improvement in the protection of forest blocks through decreased pressure on the land, increased habitat availability for birds through agroforestry implementation, boosted carbon sequestration and improved livelihoods for local landowners.