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Rebuilding lives and livelihoods in Mexico

October 1, 2007

 In August 2007, category 5 Hurricane Dean struck the southeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula around the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve.

Sian Ka’an is a World Heritage site prized for its million acres of tropical ecosystem and thousands of species—including more than 300 varieties of birds, over 800 species of plants and other exotic and endangered creatures. The hurricane severely impacted the livelihoods of local communities, as it destroyed infrastructure, housing, forests and fisheries. Hardest hit was the southern part of Quintana Roo, home to the predominantly Mayan communities and projects we support in partnership with UNESCO, UNDP and Expedia, Inc.

Through our Friends of World Heritage campaign, we launched an emergency appeal to raise funds to support recovery efforts. In just a few short weeks, thanks to individual contributions and support from our partners, we donated $62,000 in aid for local communities.  

That support provided food for more than 2,050 families in 12 Mayan communities, including beans and seeds to regrow lost crops. Our funding also purchased more than 150,000 plants to support efforts to replant forests and replace lobster shades for sustainable fishing

Today, donations through the Friends of World Heritage fund have empowered local communities to rebuild.

As Julio Moure, local coordinator for the COMPACT—a project of the UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme in Sian Ka’an, Mexico—reports, “The feeling among locals is one of total thanksgiving for all the help they’ve received in rebuilding self-sufficiency after Hurricane Dean.” In fact, the local fishing community has even built a training center—a “big, beautiful community house,” as Julio describes it—to share sustainable lobster-harvesting techniques and best practices.

Editor's Note: Our Friends of World Heritage and World Heritage Alliance Initiatives culminated in 2010 after four years of successful collaborations.