Closing in on three weeks in Belize, and thus far fieldwork has been very rewarding. I’ve been based at the field station of Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, where the birds ensure I’m up at 6am every morning. This is also the base for the forest rangers of Ya’axché Conservation Trust.
Unlike many other countries, the protected areas of Belize are co-managed by the Government of Belize and local NGOs, with the latter mostly assuming responsibility for day-to-day management. Along with the government, Ya’axché co-manages Bladen Nature Reserve, an IUCN Category I nature reserve, and Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, which protects the Golden Stream watershed. Ya’axché employs 10 rangers to patrol these forests and monitor their wildlife populations. For my thesis, I’m exploring the role of local ecological knowledge, held by this cohort of rangers, in the management of these protected areas.
Knowledge is challenging to document, especially since you don’t quite know what it is you are looking for. This makes the triangulation of data essential. So far, I have been spending time building rapport with the rangers, and observing and participating in their activities. This has resulted in much learning and adventure, as well as contributed to the formulation of my in-depth interview guide, which I was first able to use at the end of last week. To sum up my ‘data production’ phase, a data verification and analytical workshop will be conducted with the rangers next month.
Time seems to be passing by slowly, and yet my days here are slipping away. For now, I shall leave you with this brief introduction. I will write more on my experiences here soon.