Eworth fights erosion again, this time in the village of Monkey River. You’ll remember the summer’s saga of Saving Silk Caye. Well, Eworth and friends are doing it again! They’re using their boats, a bunch of volunteers, and a whole lot of muscle to save 2 homes in Monkey River from washing away. An entire block of buildings along the ocean-front have already lay victim and it might seem like a lost cause for these two homes. A Band-aid solution to a serious problem perhaps, but it IS a solution for these two elder villagers. The water had been lapping at their doors but with the addition of this new seawall, several vital yards of land have been reclaimed and they are safe… for now.
Erosion a major issue for Monkey River
Monkey River today is a quiet little village of about 30 families but not too long along it was a bustling town; it was the epicenter of culture and commerce in Southern Belize in the first half of the 20th Century. A former seaport, Monkey River’s primary productions were timber and the banana plantations but unregulated logging and a blight of the bananas destroyed these cash crops and the industries folded. With the loss of their livelihood, most residents moved away in search of new jobs. The declining hamlet was dealt a near death-blow in 2001 when Category 4 Hurricane Iris made direct landfall here. A mere shadow of its former self, Monkey River persists in the face of adversity. Their recent and continuing battle is one with erosion. They’ve already lost their entire sea-front block, evident from the half submerged ruins poking out of the waves. Several other houses have been abandoned as a lost cause but with a tremendous community effort, two homes are being saved with the addition of a seawall.
Rallying to Restore
Eworth Garbutt moved mountains (of boulders, stones, and sand) to save South Silk Caye from washing away this summer so he is well versed in making the seemingly impossible, a reality. Using his fleet of boat and army of friends, he was able to defy the inevitable once more and reclaim some of what the rising sea had stolen away. Several weekends of hard work saw Placencians and Monkey River Villagers happily toiling side-by-side to move several dozen yards of sand and stones to build up a sea wall and fill space between it and the homes’ walls. The two communities are undeniably linked, sharing a common history, some family bloodlines, and relying on one another’s cooperation within the tourism realm currently. Much mutual goodwill and respect is evident between the two villages and the people of Monkey River were such gracious hosts, preparing wonderful meals for the volunteers and offering profuse gratitude.
Capacity Building for the Future
Erosion will be a problem that continues to plague us in all the coastal communities of Belize. The trend is that weather patterns will only become more erratic and annual storms stronger and more frequent. We must protect what we can now but also plan for a future of harsher conditions. An easy and ecologically conscious answer to the question of what can be done to help safeguard our shores is to conserve the natural defense that our native vegetation offers. Don’t cut the mangrove. Don’t excessively remove trees and shrubbery from your property. The innate root system of our native littoral forest should naturally protect us from the worst of erosion but we’re our own enemies when it comes to preserving the beachfront of this beautiful country. Lets all make the decision to do better- for our present and our future.