The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management was created in 1997 when Maya and Garifuna communities in southern Belize discovered that three years earlier, the government had turned their ancestral lands into a national park. Not much later they awoke to the sound of dynamite blasting seismic paths in preparation for oil drilling in this ‘protected area.’ The paths, wide enough for jeeps, ushered in new, illegal traffic into this unique ecosystem recognized by the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands.

Since then, SATIIM has developed into an internationally recognized pioneer in Indigenous rights, as well as Indigenous-led environmental defense and sustainable development. SATIIM’s board is composed entirely of community leaders.

In 2004, the organization won support of the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility to develop the first comprehensive parks management plan between the government and Indigenous peoples in Belize. The World Bank later recognized SATIIM with its prestigious Marketplace prize – the first awarded to an Indigenous entrepreneur — for its Community Sustainable Forestry plan.

In 2006, SATIIM began its long history of legal precedents and victories. It temporarily saved the park from dynamite when the Supreme Court demanded an Environmental Impact Assessment. It then won a landmark judgement affirming Maya Customary Land titles. This case was the first domestic application of the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples just one month after its adoption.

In 2013 SATIIM again set an historic precedent when the Supreme Court ruled that an oil exploration permit for the park violated the right of local communities to Free, Prior and Informed consent. FPIC has the potential to be a powerful legal weapon for Indigenous communities. SATIIM’s success opened the doors around the world. SATIIM’s legal precedent set the foundation for the recent ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice that the government of Belize establish Maya communal land titles.

In response to this ruling, SATIIM is leading the way, working with Maya communities to create the first replicable, participatory mapping and demarcation process in Belize.
The organization is also at the forefront of innovations in sustainable development that combine traditional and modern practices. This Indigenous-led model increases food security and climate change resilience, reduces deforestation, and ultimately provides proof of the success of community-based sustainable development.

SATIIM’s Mission
“To promote and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and safeguard the ecological integrity of the Sarstoon Temash Region and promote the sustainable use of its resources for its Indigenous People’s economic, social, cultural, environmental, and spiritual wellbeing.

Strategic Plan Goals:

  1. To advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples with particular emphasis on Maya Customary Land Rights and Garifuna Land Rights.
  2. Support culturally sensitive green economic development of indigenous communities in the Sarstoon Temash Region.
  3. Preserve the ecological integrity and biodiversity of the Sarstoon Temash Region.
  4. Further SATIIM’s institutional sustainability.
  5. Funding

Sarstoon Temash National Park

The Sarstoon Temash National Park is the southernmost protected area in Belize. Established in 1994, the park encompasses 41, 898 acres of broadleaf, wetland and mangrove forest. The park encompasses 13 different ecosystems and approximately ten miles of coast along the Amatique Bay in the Gulf of Honduras. The documented fauna of the STNP include 226 species of birds, 24 mammals species including Jaguar, Jaguarundi, Ocelot and Manatee, 22 reptile species including the Morelet’s Crocodile, 42 fish species and 46 species of Lepidoptera (the butterfly and moth family). The park contains plant species and ecosystems found nowhere else in Belize and is said to house some of the best examples of undisturbed red mangrove forest in the region.


If you would like to contribute your time and energy to SATIIM’s mission, please fill out our Volunteer Form.