On March 3rd, the Smart Coast project hosted the first online session of its Regional Working Group (RWG). This group is comprised of key experts from the four countries of the Mesoamerican Reef region. The goal of this group is to identify and facilitate the implementation of best practices with regards to climate change adaptation measures, with emphasis on ecosystem-based approaches within this region.
The session was coordinated by WWF and it was attended by 20 participants from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, including government representatives, academic partners and non- government organizations.
RWG members possess a wealth of knowledge and experience that will guide the Smart Coasts project implementing partners on the execution of planned activities. They will work toward the creation of a regional guide on best practices for ecosystem-based adaption to climate change in coastal zones. They will also assist in the dissemination of best practices and project outcomes at a technical level, such as an article about the project that was published by the president of this group, Fabio Aleina.
Over the coming years, the project will continue to host quarterly meetings of the RWG, including online and offline sessions.
After having conducted the first climate projections and ecosystem service modelling for the areas identified by the project, several workshops were carried out to validate the results with key actors from within the four Mesoamerican Reef countries. These workshops also allowed for the identification of potential opportunities for collaboration between key institutions and the project.
In Mexico, the project, in collaboration with the Secretariat for Sustainable Development of Yucatan and local partner Pronatura Península de Yucatan, hosted a workshop directed at government agencies of the state of Yucatan. Workshop participants included staff members of the Civil Protection Directorate, the Institute for Regional and Municipal Development and the Secretariats of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture; Tourism; Research, Innovation and Higher Education; and Health Services. During the workshop, participants recommended key actions for the project to pursue, including stronger coordination with and capacity building for municipal governments and local communities, improved dissemination of information on climate and weather events to the local population, as well as engaging government entities on ecosystem management and restoration practices.
Two validation workshops were held in Honduras between December 2019 and January 2020 with the abovementioned purpose, validating the results for the Cuyamel-Omoa protected areas sub-system, the Jeanette Kawas and Punta Izopo national parks, and the Bahía de Tela Wildlife Refuge, with a wide participation of interested actors such as community leaders, local and central government authorities and NGO staff. During the workshop new adaptation measures were also identified, which will be modeled by the project as part of a prioritization exercise.
In December 2019, the first ecosystem service modeling validation workshop was held in Guatemala, in Sarstún, Livingston, Izabal. Community representatives, community authorities and regional authorities (such as the National Council of Protected Areas - CONAP, Municipality of Livingston, the Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture - DIPESCA / MAGA and others) participated in the event. New results of the models were presented, which gave way to discussion and prioritization of possible adaptation measures to climate change to be implemented in Sarstún. In January 2020, validation of the models’ outputs continued in a follow up workshop in Guatemala City. Academic institutions, national and international researchers, other NGOs and key actors from central government (MARN and INAB) participated. Discussions at both workshops resulted in identification of possible climate change adaptation measures that could be considered for implementation in Sarstún as well as new ideas that will be more closely looked at within the next stages of analysis by the project.
In Belize, three validation workshops were conducted in November 2019 in Punta Gorda Town, Placencia Village and Corozal Town. The first one had an attendance of 25 participants, 12 in the second and 16 in the third, including local authorities, community representatives, and fishermen, among others. To complete the series of engagements, a validation workshop was conducted in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye in January 2020 that had the participation of stakeholders from 12 coastal communities across Belize. In the validation exercise in San Pedro Town, stakeholders in commercial and sport fishing sectors and leaders in the dive tourism industry were targeted. This session complemented an earlier session conducted with the Deputy Mayor of San Pedro Town. The sessions were done in collaboration with the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute and the management team of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Important progress made during both sessions included the identification of options for mangrove and coral restoration. Viable options for ecosystem-based adaptation also included recommendation for fisheries management actions.
Over the coming months, the project will continue to engage with these institutions across the four countries and continue to update them with additional scientific information which will inform the identification of shared climate change adaptation measures.
Different education and awareness raising activities were conducted by the project through the support of executing partners. These activities were aimed at fostering a better understanding of the expected impacts of climate change and seek general options for adaptation from among the coastal populations of the project areas.
In Guatemala, during January and February 2020, the project, through its executing partner FUNDAECO, carried out 15 environmental education and awareness activities on climate change, its consequences and the need to adapt to it at the local level. These activities were carried out in Livingston and specifically in the communities residing within Sarstún. Primary and secondary schools, hotels and restaurants were visited, as well as the Livingston Educational Supervision office. In total, these activities reached approximately 600 people, including children, women and men.
Between January and March, in Honduras, education actions were carried out to create awareness on the potential climate risks to local populations as well as exchanges on potential adaptation measures that could be pursued. These ‘on-site’ talks were conducted in communities within the Cuyamel-Omoa protected areas sub-system, the Jeanette Kawas and Punta Izopo National Parks, and the Bahía de Tela Wildlife Refuge. Fishermen, community leaders, municipal authorities, military personnel and members of the communities participated. Other outreach activities were also conducted at townhall meetings hosted by the environmental divisions of Omoa and Tela municipalities.
In Belize, from June to December 2019, the project through the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO) carried out six educational activities, including three school presentations and other community outreach activities, reaching 318 persons from stakeholder communities across Belize and within the project’s targeted areas. Additionally, through this partner, the project participated in the Placencia Lobster Fest, where 420 people were reached. In addition, the Coastal Zone Management Authority & Institute (CZMAI), another partner within the project, conducted 9 awareness raising activities. These included sharing project information at the Belize EXPO Market Place, Tide Fest, during CZMAI’s Coastal Awareness Week as well as at other face-to-face educational talks. For all the activities carried out, a total of 1,297 persons were engaged in discussions about the impacts of climate change. Additionally, more than 7,000 persons were reached through other mass media channels.
Planning meetings were held between February and March 2020 with the Omoa Conservation Corps (CCO), the Department of Protected Areas and the north-western regional office of the Forest Conservation Institute (ICF). In these, the work route was drawn up to update the management plan of the Cuyamel-Omoa protected areas sub-system, which was recently elevated to a legislative decree last November. The updating, socialization and publication process will be supported by the Smart Coasts project, incorporating climate change adaptation measures both in the diagnostic stage and in the prioritized management strategies.