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Garifuna Face Loss of Ancestral Lands Due To Climate Change!



Throughout Belize and the Caribbean, the consequences of climate change are impacting communities and national economic sectors. Given current climate projections for the region and Belize, impacts will be exacerbated and have highly noticeable effects on Belize’s society and sustainable development. Changes in the intensity, distribution, and frequency of extreme weather events, such as storms and hurricanes, sea-level rise (SLR), increased sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, drought, wildfires, and changes in crop production are but some of the impacts of climate change Belize anticipates facing. These changes will have

direct and indirect impacts on productive sectors in Belize and the environment, which will in turn affect Belize’s sustainable economic and social development.


Belize’s geographic location and low-lying coastal areas leave it highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change: rising sea level, increased temperature, and increased frequency of intense hurricanes with their associated hazards in the form of torrential rains, catastrophic winds, and destructive storm surge under warmer environmental conditions. With a vulnerability score of 2.25, Belize is ranked 9th on the Climate Change Vulnerability Index for the Latin America and Caribbean region. A significant part of the population lives in the coastal zone of Belize, and it is also in this area where the bulk of economic activity (tourism, fishing, and agricultural production) takes place. The use of goods and services from different types of coastal and marine habitats including reefs, seagrasses, lagoons, and mangroves, among others plays an important role in the lives of Belizean coastal communities. Additionally, housing, urban, transportation, and recreational infrastructure have also been built along the coast and on the coastal plains, making them

vulnerable to storms, hurricanes, and floods. Like coral reefs, mangroves, and coastal lagoons reduce the negative climate change impacts, they provide a key service to reduce vulnerability.


It is specifically the Garifuna population that is most adept at keeping these regions thriving in terms of protecting the ecosystem. Today the global population of Garifuna is about 300,000 in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and urban North America. The Garifuna people in Belize live mostly in coastal communities. These communities continue to battle rapid coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels, threatening their livelihoods, homes, and traditions. The battle between the climate crisis and indigenous people continues daily, with little to no time left for adaptation. However, in tiny Belize, education is seen as a powerful tool to combat the challenges they encounter every day.


Climate change is significantly impacting indigenous peoples in Belize, a small Central American/Caribbean country that is not much larger than the US state of Massachusetts.

A report from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre headquartered in Belize confirmed that the southern coastline is severely affected by erosion. The report explained that the loss of the beachfront is occurring at an alarming rate. The coastal communities of Hopkins and Dangriga are at the forefront of climate change.

A 2019 assessment of coastal erosion in both communities showed that the shoreline had retreated by about 20–25 feet over the previous seven years! Currently the analysis finds that there are severe erosion problems along the entire coast of Belize with rates of up to 2.61 m/year and beach losses of 113 meters in 50 years.


The battle between the climate crisis and indigenous people continues daily, with little to no time left for adaptation. However, in tiny Belize, education is seen as a powerful tool to combat the challenges they encounter every day.


Climate change is significantly impacting indigenous peoples in Belize, a small Central American/Caribbean country that is not much larger than the US state of Massachusetts. The Garifuna people in Belize live mostly in coastal communities. These communities continue to battle rapid coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels, threatening their livelihoods, homes, and traditions.


A report from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre headquartered in Belize confirmed that the southern coastline is severely affected by erosion. The report explained that the loss of the beachfront is occurring at an alarming rate. The coastal communities of Hopkins and Dangriga are at the forefront of climate change.


The March 2019 preliminary assessment of coastal erosion in both communities showed that the shoreline has retreated by about 20–25 feet over the past seven years.


President of the National Garifuna Council of Belize, Sheena Zuniga, says, “It is a major concern because in our communities we have lost more coastline. I know, specifically in Barranco, we had a red cliff that is no longer there because of erosion. We’ve tried many ways to assist with the problems, to put boulders and sandbags. But the thing with erosion that we realized [is that] when you try to do preventative methods after the fact, it’s harder for us to save our lands.”

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