The Government of Belize through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development is currently in the process of executing a Global Environment Facility (GEF) financed project titled “Capacity-building for the strategic planning and management of natural resources in Belize.” In 2005, Belize completed its National Capacity Self-Assessment (NCSA) in which poor harmonization of sectoral policies and poor coordination; inadequately developed environmental information systems; poorly integrated land use planning; and low levels of understanding of the ecosystems approach to resource management were identified as critical constraints to effective implementation of the Rio Conventions. This project was developed as a direct response to those needs. Since the completion of the NCSA, Belize has gone to great lengths to strengthen its environmental policy and programming. With the assistance of United Nations Development Programme and other development partners, Belize has completed multiple plans, policies, and programmes that aim to address the country’s obligations under various multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).
Economic valuation of ecosystem services is a quantity and quality measure of value use of natural resources and identification of their economic value. The aim of economic valuation of natural resources is to create economic incentives by encouraging sustainability and conservation of natural resources to increase effectiveness and improve the quality of life of all Belizeans.
Natural resources valuation requires a very specific skill with a strong reliance on quantitative methods. The application and interpretation of the modalities require highly qualified specialists to provide and institutionalize such skills in the institutions, where expertise of such level is not available. It is expected that within the frameworks of the project, a range of activities such as revision, development and realization of tools of valuation of natural resources and development of guidelines will be conducted. These activities aim to develop skills to use natural resources valuation tools at the national level in order to reduce demand on external expertise for long-term prospects.
Conducting economic valuation of ecosystem services requires different resources, methods, and approaches considering the importance of the environmental impact assessments, sectors and type of investment projects involved. A comprehensive economic valuation of natural resources and its use in decision-making process represents a new paradigm for Belize. It is required to improve capacity of the national experts, while increasing stakeholder awareness of sustainable development, and natural resource economics.
This initiative aims to analyze the national and international methods of economic valuation for biological resources. Also opportunities for adaptation of different methods to Belize including preparation of curriculum, materials for trainings, and developing criteria for selection of high value development project to provide unbiased cost-benefit assessment of public and private investments.
This is a first attempt to introduce and implement best practices and new approaches for natural resource valuation into the economy of Belize.