The 2010 MAR Leadership Generation is the first generation of fellows supported by the MAR Leadership Program. This group is comprised of 11 leaders: one Belizean, 3 Guatemalans, 3 Hondurans and 4 Mexicans. All fellows in this generation are developing projects that have to do with sustainable coastal development and tourism. Six members of this generation were selected to participate in the second phase of the program, in which they will continue receiving training and support for identifying financing for the adequate capitalization of their projects.
YASHIN DUJON | Belmopan, BELIZE | Yashin has a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and a Master’s in Responsible Tourism. When he studied in the United States, he came to the realization that tourism and sustainability can exist hand in hand and this is the vision that he wants to promote in Belize. He currently works as an advisor to the Ministry of Tourism of Belize and runs 2 consultancies that help tourism operators certify sustainable practices. He has a beautiful 2-year old son, Damien.
His project: National Interpretative Strategy on Impacts on Belize’s Barrier Reef
The main tourism attraction of Belize is the reef. Almost all of Belize’s peoples are directly or indirectly benefited by tourism, although not all Belizeans have been close to the reef or know about the urgency to conserve it. It is important to present the facts to these people, whose livelihoods depend on the reef’s health. This is a nationwide initiative seeking to increase public awareness and proactive appreciation of the value and importance of the MAR through collaboration with public, private and civil stakeholders. The objective is to establish greater awareness, appreciation, importance and ownership regarding our impacts on the marine environment as Belizeans, and as citizens of the Mesoamerican Reef System Region. Two main campaigns will be the product of this project: a School Education and Awareness Campaign and a Tourism Awareness Campaign. The first campaign is geared toward building awareness regarding impacts on the Mesoamerican Reef System in Secondary and Tertiary Level Educational Institutions within the Belize River Watershed and the Island Zones. The second campaign is an awareness campaign for the service industry and tourists to make both groups aware of their impacts and the resulting consequences on the regional reef system. The vision is that this awareness will affect the day-to-day operations of the tourism industry. Furthermore, the campaign will seek to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into the service industry, targeting tour guides, front line personnel, and service managers. This will be achieved via best practices management training workshops, and printed awareness materials.
IAN DRYSDALE | Roatán, HONDURAS | Ian was born in Guatemala, but grew up in El Salvador and has lived in Honduras for the last 20 years. Since he was a child, his favorite place has always been the ocean. It’s where he learned how to surf, snorkel, windsurf, waterski, wakeboard and scuba. He lives on the island of Roatan with his wife Jenny Myton. They both have their B.S. in environmental engineering and have worked on coral reef conservation during the last 6 years in their consulting business, Luna Environmental Consultants. He is a representative of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People initiative for Honduras and Guatemala. Currently, Jenny and Ian are planting / reforesting a small, 10-acre plot in the Cangrejal River watershed with fruit and timber-yielding trees. His hobbies include scuba, underwater photography and collecting music.
His project: Earthworms to the Rescue of the Coral Reef***
There are several elements of this project that justify its implementation, including: 1) Roatan’s streets are made of dirt. Because they lack vegetation, they represent a very sizeable source of sediment inflow to the adjacent reef; 2) deforestation on the island is increasing and it has been reported that several aquifers show signs of saline inflow due to their low recharge rate; and 3) the useful life of Roatan’s landfill is expiring. The removal of organic waste from its daily intake would help to prolong its future use. This project seeks to consolidate an earthworm composting operation using organic waste generated in the kitchens and gardens of West End with the end of cultivating plants with the compost generated therein, which will be planted in the community as living barriers to reduce sediment inflow to the reef. This will therefore beautify and protect the MAR through adequate management of organic waste. The Local Water Commission will separate organic waste from the West End Community to compost through earthworm composting. The compost generated therein will be utilized to cultivate native plants, which will have an array of uses, such as: reforesting the West End community to recharge the aquifer and create living barriers on streets bordering the ocean to retain sediments. To make this operation profitable, the Water Commission will also sell plants to the general public. The project will begin its operations in Roatan and later the project will be replicated in other communities of the MAR region.
YANÚ RAMÍREZ | Roatán, HONDURAS | Yanú is a 34-year old Honduran who has always loved traveling and getting to know different places. She studied Environmental Science Engineering, and was part of the first group of environmental engineers to receive a degree in her country. In 2000 she received a grant to study a Master’s in Urban Environmental Management in Rotterdam at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) at the University of Wageningen, during which she met her husband. Upon returning to Honduras, she started working at the Honduran Tourism Institute in the field of sustainable tourism. She also worked as an independent consultant in solid waste management issues, water and drainage, coastal development and recently, in environmental themes related to cruise terminals. In 2006, Yanú and her husband opened an office for environmentally-friendly architectural design and consulting in Roatan, the Bay Islands. When she is not working, she loves to read, dance salsa, and travel within and outside of Honduras. She is a new mom; her baby’s name is Santiago.
Her project: Sustainable Construction in the MAR***
New technological alternatives exist that allow for the incorporation of an environmental variable into planning, design and construction processes that can mitigate and even prevent the consequences of unplanned development on the coral ecosystem. There is scarce information on sustainable construction methods in the region, and therefore little interest among developers to adopt them. This project seeks to enable informed decision making to improve the existent coastal and land development process that currently prevails in the MAR region. It will change this gap through a webpage for regional builders that will offer information in English and Spanish oriented towards capacity building and informed decision making regarding sustainable construction methods, ultimately contributing to the improvement of the health of the MAR. The information on the website will be developed gradually and on a country-by-country basis, focusing on land-locked zones and coastal states according to their level of impact on the reef. The content will include: information on valid local planning instruments, construction norms, training opportunities for planning, sustainable construction and design, sustainable construction materials and products for sale in the region, a forum for discussion, among other content. We will work with the heads of states and municipalities and other towns that are experiencing accelerated coastal development due to tourism or second-residence households. During the entire process, the project will seek to pin down strategic alliances with public, academic, private and social sectors to obtain cutting edge information and promote the webpage.
JENNIFER MYTON | Roatán, HONDURAS | Jenny has a B.S. in environmental engineering. She is a scuba instructor and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. When she finished college, she went to live in the Bay Islands of Honduras to be close to the ocean. Currently, she is writing her Master’s thesis on sustainable development and works for the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL). Her mother is her role model – she’s a strong, amazing woman. She was a PeaceCorps volunteer stationed in Honduras where she was in charge of establishing the National University’s Biology Department. Since Jenny was a child, her mother taught her that all of us are part of a common network and that we have a responsibility to protect it. She considers herself very fortunate to have a marvelous husband, Ian. They have been together since they met in college – working, having fun and sharing the same passion for protecting the ocean. She is very blessed to be able to work at CORAL; she enjoys it very much.
Her project: Fondo de Conservación para las Islas de la Bahía (Conservation Fund for the Bay Islands)
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MAR) is the second largest barrier reef in the world. It is the most important source for coastal protection, protein and is the backbone of our tourism industry. The MAR is in critical condition. It is being affected not only by local threats such as sewage, sedimentation and overfishing but also by global threats such as climate change. It is up to us to become proactive. The Bay Islands have local grassroots organizations working on the ground with the communities and governments that manage their coastal ecosystems. These organizations desperately lack funding to operate. The Bay Island Conservation Fund will pool resources from various funding mechanisms and sources to provide local NGOs with funding through a well-known, transparent entity. The MAR Fund, a regional fund recognized for its dedication to reef protection and its ethical and transparent administration of funds, will manage the Bay Island Conservation Fund. The project’s mission is: to create the Bay Island Conservation Fund (BICF) account within the MAR Fund for the Bay Islands that will receive, administer and disburse funds for reef conservation. It will be a flexible mechanism that can tailor management to specific donor requirements. Just as each of the Bay Islands is unique, their funding sources must not compete with established initiatives and must be tailored to the different realities of each Island.
KAREN AGUILAR | Guatemala City, GUATEMALA | Karen received her B.S. in Natural Resource Agronomy from the University of San Carlos and has a Master’s in Sustainable Development, Environmental Management and Geometrics from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. She has been an environmentalist since she was 12 years old; her first professional foray into the field was as a volunteer with the Environmental Studies Group (GEA). She formally joined FUNDAECO in 2004, encouraging the creation of the Metropolitan Ecological Belt, which is currently recognized in the Zoning Plan of the Municipality of Guatemala. Presently, she works as the Director of Institutional Development at FUNDAECO, facilitating strategic planning processes and strategies for the management and conservation processes of Protected Areas. She lived in Guatemala City with her boyfriend, who is also an environmentalist. Together they enjoy visiting nature reserves and camping. She likes reading about alternatives to economic development, collecting photos of animals and has plans to learn how to scuba.
Her project: La Garza – Sentry and Educational Boat
The Gulf of Honduras (GOH) and its natural ecosystems demonstrate a high level of deterioration due to disorganized coastal development, overfishing, pollution and the infrequent application of environmental regulation. Currently, there are various projects that are being implemented to solve these problems, but they have not succeeded in attracting the attention of governments and society. La Garza is a different and innovative initiative that seeks to attract the interest of key actors in the GOH so that they will assume responsibility for the conservation of the region. La Garza is an initiative that seeks to mobilize collective interest around environmental problems in the Gulf of Honduras, creating a trigger to positively impact its conservation.
La Garza, anchored in Río Dulce, Guatemala, will carry out its work navigating the Gulf of Honduras (GOH) from Izabal Lage in Guatemala, around the Southern Belize Barrier Reef as well as the North Coast of Honduras. La Garza, Sentry and Educational boat, is a work boat that will be outfitted to be able to carry out marine / coastal research, environmental education and highly specialized tours. La Garza will offer:
ESVIN CHACÓN | Puerto Barrios, GUATEMALA | Esvin was born in Izabal, Guatemala to a fisherman and a homemaker. His childhood was spent sharing experiences with the Q’eqchi Mayan community, whose members quickly acquainted him with their language, traditions and necessities. A year before he graduated from college, Esvin began working as a courier for an agricultural business and 6 months later received a position in the same company as a computer operator. He carried out this position until he was promoted as a database programming analyst. During this time he got married and formed a family of 3 children – two daughters and a son. When he turned 27, he decided to return to Izabal and for almost 5 years worked at Hacienda Tijax – a model ecotourism project in Guatemala. Later, he worked 2 years at Ak’ Tenamit and in 2007 was given the title of General Tourism Coordinator of the Santo Tomás de Castilla Cruise Terminal, the most important in the entire country. Now, after seeing the way that big tour operators of the Guatemalan Caribbean work, he has decided to encourage a different type of tourism in Izabal. He has created Social Travel, an agency that provides tourists with an authentic experience that is both socially and environmentally responsible.
His project: Alliance for Sustainable Tourism Development in Protected Areas of the Izabal Region of the MAR (ATSAM)***
More often than not, the operation of big tourism businesses in Izabal does not generate significant income for communities that act as tourism destinations. On average, these community businesses enjoy only 20% of earnings in such ventures; big tour operators pocket the remaining 80%. ATSAM offers, promotes and sells packets, circuits and destinations all defined by community tourism (tourism based in communities), at the same time that it strengthens the business aptitude of the communities, empowering them to offer high quality services that 1) produce direct income for the host communities and 2) favorably impact conservation activities of the protected areas within the SAM. ATSAM will generate inclusive products and services that will allow alliance partners to leverage their individual efforts, such as: regional strategic planning for community tourism in Protected Areas of Izabal; business plans for each community; standards in the management of community tourism business administration; planning and implementation of sustainable tourism best practices in communities and in protected areas; and a regional, promotional & marketing campaign to consolidate the alliance.
ADA PINELO | Guatemala City, GUATEMALA | Ada is Guatemalan, married with two children and feels blessed to be working in one of the most dynamic sectors in the world. She has a bachelor’s degree in Ecotourism and is currently writing a thesis for her Master’s in Project Administration. She has more than 11 years of experience working in Guatemala and El Salvador. She directs a consultancy named PROTURS that specializes in sustainable tourism. She has worked in protected areas, private natural reserves and community agricultural cooperatives, supporting the design of new businesses and accompanying groups from the planning stages to the startup of new enterprises. During the last couple of years, she worked in project formation, management, and administration. She worked for WWF as coordinator of its Central American Watershed Conservation Program USAID/CCAW and has secured financing for projects such as “Competitive Development of Cultural Tourism in Indigenous Mayan Communities of Guatemala.” An advantage of her work is that she has gotten to travel with her family, giving her sons the chance to get to know their country.
Her project: Geotourism as a Regional Strategy to Reduce the Impact of Climate Change and Increase Local Development Opportunities
Tourists seek products based on the criteria of sustainability, authenticity, promotion of environmental conservation and the economic development of the communities that they visit. Because of this demand, tourism businesses need to prove their stance on such matters to their clientele as a fundamental part of their competitive strategy. On another note, the tourism industry is part victim /part cause of climate change since tourism trips and related activities contribute to approximately 5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, according to studies carried out by PNUD. These emissions affect the environment and tourism destinations, principally coastal ones. In light of this, it’s important to invest in the tourism sector to mitigate impacts on the environment and as a sector that catalyzes socioeconomic development in local populations. This project seeks to establish a self-sustaining mechanism, through a Carbon Neutral Reservation Center that will offer responsible tourists the ability to plan a truly sustainable trip, effectively coordinating the tourism destinations in the Mesoamerican Reef Region to ensure that participating tourists have an unforgettable experience and moreover are enabled to leave a positive impact on the places they visit. The Carbon Neutral Reservation Center will operate in the 4 countries that comprise the MAR. It will first operate in one country, and when all is put into place, will be replicated in the second, with the end of making its initiatives self-sustaining in the short run. The project will design tourism circuits in each country of the MAR region in which tourists will be able to travel and have contact with local communities and leave a positive “footprint” that will contribute directly to environmental conservation and local development.
PABLO BESQUIN | Cancún, MEXICO | Pablo was born in Mexico City, but grew up in Cuernavaca. In his childhood he would frequently vacation in the Mexican Caribbean, where he formed an intimate relationship with the ocean and marine life. At the age of 15 he became a PADI rescue diver and by 18 was a Dive Master. When Pablo was 19, his father was hospitalized in Florida for 5 years during which he became a Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Due to the medical expenses generated by his father’s hospitalization, he couldn’t afford college and decided to search for employment on the coast after Hurricane Wilma ran her course. When he arrived to the Caribbean, he was amazed by the damage that coastal communities were inflicting on the environment, without knowing how to repair it. It was then when he began to search for the best technology that would allow him to provide alternative solutions to unplanned coastal development. After learning more about technologies for marine construction, Pablo decided to develop his own technologies. Today, five years later, he has his own factory and he is behind the most advanced technologies that control beach erosion and protect the coast.
His project: Implementation of Artificial Modular Reefs (AMA®) In Quintana Roo and the Mesoamerican Reef System***
Poor engineering and unregulated coastal development have accelerated the effects of erosion on beaches, making coastal communities more and more vulnerable to hurricanes and other natural phenomena. As a consequence, sand loss lessens the appeal of tourism destinations. At the moment, beach recuperation efforts have not been effective and have even caused exaggerated environmental problems in sites where sand is extracted to replace sand supplies at eroded beaches. This project seeks to guarantee the sustainability and longevity of coasts and water systems through the development and best use of the technology. A barrier of artificial reefs will be placed in Quintana Roo and other damaged parts of the Mesoamerican Reef to lessen erosion and beach loss. At the same time, the project will create an appeal for fisheries and tourism by reducing the pressures exerted upon natural reefs by both industries. The artificial barrier reef will measure 12.5 Km (in double configuration), to protect the Hotel Zone of Cancun, prolonging the Mesoamerican Reef System (MAR) from Punta Cancún to Punta Nizuc. This barrier will be designed by US naval engineers and will guarantee the protection of hotel infrastructure during storms and hurricanes, as well as the control of coastal erosion. The barrier will be constructed based on the Artificial Modular Reef ® technology, which is made of marine-grade concrete that is PH neutral and is patented and certified by the EPA. The project will install the largest artificial barrier reef in the Mexican Caribbean, securing serious benefits for the zone and its surrounding ecosystem.
VICENTE FERREYRA | Cancún, MEXICO | Vicente is originally from Mexico City, but has spent the last six years living in Cancun, Quintana Roo, following a brief stint in Madrid where he received his Master’s degree. Living in Cancun has made him more of an environmentalist due to two main influences: the biodiversity of the area and its surroundings and the threats that poorly planned tourism pose on the same. He is convinced that with solid public policy and adequate instruments we can create a change in the existent tourism model. However, this won’t happen if we don’t involve local communities, and most importantly, if we don’t make them see that caring for the environment is a win-win strategy. Vicente has been married for 4 years and although he has no children, he has 3 dogs that together with the environment are his passion. In his free time he likes to read, travel, and manage an association alongside his wife that helps to protects animals, especially dogs. He believes that just like the environment, there’s a lot of work to be done to protect them.
His project: Agency to Integrate Responsible Tourism Activities in the Mesoamerican Reef Region***
In past years, there have been many projects (especially community ones) that receive national and international institutional support for their construction, design and/or training of personnel. However, these projects fall short of being viabile because they lack a marketing component. In other words, they’re ready to operate, but don’t receive enough tourists to be sustainable. This is due principally to the market conditions in tourism destinations like those of the SAM. Sustainability is simply unattainable for such enterprises, especially those that have to pay comissions to intermediaries. This projects seek to unify natural, cultural and social experiences offered to tourists in the MAR Region. By marketing and selling responsible trips, the agency will serve as a catalyst to produce real benefits to the local communities and ecosystems that make up the zone. The integrating agency will be dedicated to the marketing of tourism products to different audiences with distinct interests, socioeconomic levels, motivations and availability of time. The main idea behind the Integrating Agency is to reduce the necessity of middlemen, who are responsible in a big way for the limited access to traditional markets enjoyed by small businesses, community ecotourism outfits and rural tourism. Because it isn’t possible to cut back on everything, when there are middlemen, we will seek to make commissions as just and equitable as possible, with promises of reinvestment in the local community.
MARICARMEN GARCÍA | Chetumal, MEXICO | Maricarmen has a B.S. in Biology and a Master’s in Water Resource Sciences. Since 1998 she has worked for the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP), and since 2004 has been the Director of the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve and the Xcalak Reef National Park. Before joining this institution, she was a researcher and professor from 1985-1997 at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, specializing in marine mammals. Maricarmen also participated in an Antarctic seal ecology project in Cabo Shirreff, Chile and wrote various publications about the reproductive strategies of seals and the management of breeding of marine mammals. Her interests and work experience in the past have amplified the focus of her work from basic research in biological sciences to the management of natural resources and development. She is particularly interested in themes related to the environment, management and communication. She is a certified cave diver, an open water swimmer and she loves running marathons.
Her project: Recreational Tourism for the Conservation of Banco Chinchorro***
Banco Chinchorro is a unique system in Mexico compared to other similarly sized coral reefs in like geographies. Ecologically, it’s an ecosystem with a high level of heterogeneity of habitats, which oew to its shape, topography and location. Additionally, it’s a resilient ecosystem which justifies that its use and enjoyment, though this usage should be restricted to low intensity. Through my project, tourists will be trained to carry out conservation activities in one of the most pristine sites of the MAR, the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve. The objective of this project is to provide visitors with a unique experience that will allow them to interact with nature through tangible conservation actions in the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve. Fishermen and local service providers will be the groups that will provide the project’s services. Recreational products will be developed with the goal of allowing tourists to enjoy the Protected Area (PA) and as such will have a longer duration and will be more focused. Educational activities require more time, responsibility and specialization among visitors. Among recreational activities, reef diving and nature sightseeing will be offered. As part of the educational component of the project, courses will be given on scientific scuba, educational dives will be carried out to hunt the lionfish, and educational sightseeing will be offered.
JAVIER ROJAS | Cozumel, MEXICO | Javier was born in the Port of Veracruz and grew up in Southern Baja California and Oaxaca. He worked and studied in Mexico City and finally settled down in Cozumel in 2000. He received his B.S. in Commercial Systems at the University of Quintana Roo. Currently, he is studying for his Master’s in Management and Environmental Auditing with a specialization in Engineering and Environmental Technologies. His studies are made possible by the Latin American University Foundation (FUNIBER). Javier has worked for the Cozumel Potable Water and Sewage Commission since 2000 and, beginning in 2003, he assumed the position of Department Head of the “User Registry.” He spends his afternoons advancing his consultancy business, CODESUET, developing standards that will guide tourism businesses towards sustainable development, thus contributing to the minimization of impacts caused by mass tourism in Cozumel. He has a one-year old son, Juan Emanuel. He enjoys playing sports and protecting the planet.
His project: Consultancy for Sustainable Tourism Business Development (CODESUET)
My Consultancy for Sustainable Tourism Business Development is necessitated by the lack of strategic planning for sustainable development that is exhibited by tourism businesses operating in Cozumel, a destination that has been over-promoted and whose coastal development has increased exponentially in the last years. This project seeks to evaluate and steer Central American and Caribbean tourism businesses towards an adequate level of sustainable development through a new evaluation alternative for tourism businesses in the field of sustainable development that develops projects which promote sustainable development and encourage the participation of businesses within shared tourism areas. CODESUET offers consulting and evaluation of activites under a sustainable development framework. It consults for Tourism Businesses of all sizes from the Caribbean and Central America. The consultancy will make recommendations to enable businesses to obtain an International Sustainable Development Certificate. CODESUET also designs and develops projects that promote Sustainable Development in the MAR Region such as White Cities. This project seeks to reduce solar radiation by painting the roofs of buildings and houses with white or pale colors. It also seeks to paint highways and pavement in central tourist-attraction zones in at least 2 localities in each country of the MAR region.
***Projects that were selected to advance to the second phase of the program, in which leaders received additional training to raise funds for their projects. For more information about the second phase of the program, consult the General Information page.