‘I don’t want any more graves going to the sea’: saving a village in Belize from man-made erosion


“My grandmother and my grandfather are now washed away in the sea,” says Mario Muschamp, staring at the shore near his close-knit Creole community. ‘You know, their graves are gone. That really hurts.”

This is the reality for the residents of Monkey River, who have watched helplessly as their soccer field, their homes and even the graves of departed loved ones are claimed by the sea.

Man-made activity has been identified by experts as the main cause of the coastal erosion that devastates the village and causes so much suffering, especially industrial salt extraction and water diversion. The situation has deteriorated to the point that some members of the community have left.

The geotube battle

Others, however, have decided to stay and fight, and, in the words of local school teacher Audra Castellanos, “put Monkey River back on the map”.

Mr. Muschamp is the President of the Monkey River Watershed Association, a community organization dedicated to preserving and restoring the integrity of the entire Monkey River Watershed, ensuring it continues to provide a host of benefits to local residents and the coastal ecosystem .

To that end, the Monkey River Watershed Association partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to install one hundred and sixty feet of sand-filled “geotubes” for the most threatened properties.

Residents are working with UNDP to install the geotubes, huge synthetic sandbags that provide physical barriers to wave energy and erosion, and are taking other measures to slow the breakup of the coastline.

‘We need climate justice’

“Monkey River Village is one of those coastal communities that we prioritize,” said Leonel Requena, UNDP’s National Coordinator of the GEF Small Grants Program. “The residents of Monkey River are not responsible for the climate crisis, but they suffer the most loss and damage. What we need is climate justice.

The Monkey River story is about a biodiversity hub where the river meets the sea – but more than that, it’s about a community that, like so many others, is joining forces to turn the tide on climate change, with the support of the United Nations.

Since a United Nations Global Lens video documentary about the community was produced in 2022, yet another home has been claimed by the sea, but the residents who have decided to protect their village say nothing will weaken their determination to fight coastal erosion. take away.

“We’ve done our best to try and keep what we have,” said Mr. Muschamp. “I don’t want any more graves going to the sea.”

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