Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Call for Support of a Bi-National Initiative in the
Belize – Guatemala “Adjacency Zone”

All negotiations to reach a just, amicable and durable solution to the “Anglo-Guatemalan” dispute, now the “Belize – Guatemala Territorial Differendum”, have proven unsuccessful. The latter was a set of Proposals from Facilitators presented to the OAS on 30th August 2002 which were subsequently rejected by Guatemala. This action then prompted the implementation of “confidence building” measures shortly thereafter.

In answering the call for “confidence building measures” announced by the Governments of Belize and Guatemala, Help for Progress then embarked on a series of activities.  One such activity involved the creation of the “Friends of the Cooperation Zone Network: Belize & Guatemala” or “Red de Amigos de la Zona de CooperaciĆ³n (REDAZCO).” REDAZCO is comprised of communities from Belize and from Guatemala, namely:

BELIZE: Dolores, Otoxha, San Benito Poite, Pueblo Viejo, Jalacte and San Vicente. Population: 3,114 (1604 Males & 1506 Females) with a number of 517 house holds (2006).

GUATEMALA: Santa Marta, Jalacte Esperanza, Nueva Cadenita, San Francisco Mollejon, Santa Cruz, Poite Centro, Nacimiento Poite, La Compuerta, Esquipulas Mollejon, Semuy and Timax. 

These communities all lie within the “adjacency zone”. (Please note that community members from both Belize & Guatemala opted to call the area “Cooperation” rather than “Adjacency” zone.)

The objective of REDAZCO or the network is to “develop a forum within a democratic framework, for discussion, analysis and evaluation of issues related to:

·                    Productive sector (cacao, beekeeping)

·                    Culture (Retrieval of customs and traditions & Maya Spirituality)

·                    Human development

·                    Gender

·                    Conflict resolution

·                    Environment and natural resources

·                    Sports

for the Cooperation Zone: Belize & Guatemala. REDAZCO also seeks to foster peace, friendship, understanding and cooperation in the zone.”

On 9th December 2003, Help for Progress signed a bi-national project titled: “Peace, development and cooperation with equity in the adjacency zone: Belize & Guatemala” funded by Oxfam GB and has since been promoting cross-border activities through the production of cacao in conjunction with the Toledo Cacao Growers Association and Irish Aid. In addition, Help for Progress has been supporting beekeeping activities, cattle and rice production in the area. The organization is also involved in the retrieval of Maya Spirituality, culture and traditions, with the support of the Association of Spiritual Guides from Guatemala AGERS; and promoting gender equality among the various groups from both countries. Since the creation of the project there have been 133 farmers benefiting from cacao production, 12 beekeepers and 18 cattle farmers from Belize, and 14 beekeepers and 30 cacao farmers from Guatemala also benefiting from this initiative. The Network has been meeting overtime to discuss issues affecting the area and have been involved in several cultural and agricultural exchange visits. After working in the area for five years, we are convinced that this process has strengthened friendship, collaboration and peace in the “adjacency zone.” Needless to say, prior to the introduction of this initiative there were no formal contacts between the peoples of the “adjacency zone”. Project impact analyses have been conducted for REDAZCO - the network; cacao and honey in the zone.  Help for Progress would like to continue these efforts between Belize and Guatemala but is in need of support from concerned donors.