I take great pleasure to address you as friends; friends bound by a commitment to conservation and sustainable development. This year as we engaged in the process of strategic planning it became clear that FCD could not have a better name. As we come to the end of another very successful year I wanted to reflect on the significance of this name as a way of rooting and routing ourselves.

FCD manages through a co-management agreement the largest protected area of Belize, a truly amazing and important area for Belize. This area contains one of the most important watersheds – encompassing both the Mopan and Macal rivers that go on to form the Belize River. We are connected to the Chiquibul in so many ways. If you have taken a dip in any of the mentioned rivers, had a couple of Belikin’s or everytime you turn your lights on, then you definitely have something to thank the Chiquibul for. However, the Chiquibul Forest, is under threat and this is where FCD is a hero.

FCD is a small organization based in Succotz doing amazing work under the leadership of the Executive Director. My relationship to FCD goes a long way – to the beginning actually. FCD started as the Youth Environmental Action Group (YEAG), a group of kids from Succotz who aimed to keep the village and the river clean; loved nature; who through their relationship with the Chiquibul area and the learning space it provided developed not only strong friendships but a strong desire to make Belize a better place. I can still remember having the most profound conversations about the challenges of Belize from environmental destruction, the erosion of community to corruption. I remember writing our first mission statement, building our little office out of scrap lumber and hiking in the Chiquibul.

The ED always makes a point of embarrassing me with my big back pack, a machete half my size, a Rambo knife and a head-band around my head to complete the Rambo picture. I was ready to save the rainforest! This was FCD in the beginning. Young people who loved nature and wanted to make a difference in their community. I recently re-joined FCD as a Board member and it is clear that some things have changed. To begin with, I no longer try the Rambo thing. Those kids grew up, YEAG became FCD, more people joined in and FCD is a professional organization and has taken on bigger responsibilities. It is an organization respected by people across Belize for its integrity and its heroic spirit of protecting the Chiquibul. Derric Chan says that people that come in contact with FCD “get infected by the FCD bug”. That bug is the youthful spirit of dreaming a better Belize and a commitment to make a difference that has been a constant at FCD.

This year, we spent countless hours trying to write our vision statement. In the end we coined the statement: “Healthy terrestrial ecosystems that are sustainably managed for Belize and the region.” It sounds huge. Yes it is huge! But, hey that is what heroes undertake. That is what the FCD spirit is about and we welcome you to join and stay with us to meet that bold aspiration and vision!!!

Dr. Filiberto Penados


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