Enhancing Land Tenure Rights and Security of the Maya Peoples of Southern Belize


From: 01/04/2023

To: 01/04/2026

Budget: $2,500,000

Proponents: Julian Cho Society (JCS)

Associates: Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA)
Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA)

Stakeholders: 35 Maya communities with a total population of approximately 18,000 people

The Maya people are a land-based people. Land is intrinsically linked to their survival, identity, spirituality, customs, leadership and ways of knowing and being. It is this fundamental way of life that is understood in the notion of Ralcho’och (“Children of the Earth”). It follows that the persistent uncertainty regarding Maya land rights is not only causing the illegitimate appropriation and exploitation of their community lands (and associated forest loss), but is also an imminent threat to the very existence and way of life of every Maya person. The longer it takes to achieve these titles, the frailer the Maya communities will become to defend and sustain their tenure rights.

Despite over 30 years of struggle and the 2015 Caribbean Court of Justice’s Consent Order that affirmed the land rights of the Maya people, the 41 Maya communities of southern Belize still do not have the full, legal recognition of their right to own, manage and develop their traditional land and resources according to their own customs and institutions.


To read a brief overview of Belize, click here. 

For a timeline of land and forest rights in Belize, click here.  

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