The Costa Rican banana industry is the first banana industry in the world to put in place a coherent and holistic environmental strategy in order to offset its carbon dioxide emissions.
Corbana, the Costa Rican banana producers’ association, has recently submitted to Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy the ‘Banana Industry Action Plan against Climate Change’, which aims at cutting its net greenhouse gasses emissions to zero by 2012. The plan was formally presented to the Minister of Environment and Energy, Roberto Dobles Mora, under the framework of the National Strategy for Climate Change (ENCC) that the Costa Rican government marked as a top priority in its 2006-2010 agenda.
The Costa Rica Banana Industry Action Plan against Climate Change will first calculate the overall level and source of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses produced by the industry in order to properly advise individual banana farms on what steps and measures they must take to offset them. Once the emissions assessment is finalized, Corbana and the Banana Environment Commission will encourage producers to adopt a number of concrete measures, namely:
- Creating more carbon sinks through reforestation programmes;
- Cutting back in the use of fossil fuels and fertilisers;
- Switching to biofuels and biodegradable plastics;
- Reducing the use of traditional pesticides and fertilisers through the application of biopesticides and biofertilisers;
- Implementing energy-saving programmes.
Furthermore an educational programme will be implemented, to raise awareness amongst banana workers of the importance of combating climate change through CO2 emissions reduction; and a manual of good environmental practices will be developed to reinforce this programme. “Even though there are several courses of action open to producers, Corbana encourage growers to build carbon sinks through replanting schemes and to reduce the use of traditional pesticides and fertilisers,” says Jorge Sauma Aguilar, CEO of Corbana. “These two concrete measures have been proved to be very successful in the past and are totally aligned with Costa Rica’s National Strategy for Climate Change.”
While Costa Rica makes up only 0.03% of the world’s landmass, it holds 5% of the world’s biodiversity. That is why the Costa Rica banana industry is a leader in the environmental field. For over 15 years, most of Costa Rica’s banana farms have been carrying out long-term reforestation projects in their plantations. For example, the banana industry’s current contribution to conservation and reforestation is 6,305 hectares of replanted forests, 14.4% of the land used for banana plantations. More importantly, banana plantations only use less than 1% of the country’s territory.
A case in point is Platanera Río Sixaola, a banana farm located in Limón Province, which was the first banana plantation in the world to become carbon neutral. Corbana expects that by following Platanera Río Sixaola’s example, the Costa Rican banana industry will create added value to its product and will be a key differentiator for Costa Rica bananas in the European market. “On top of the environmental contributions and benefits of this initiative for Costa Rica as a whole, this holistic strategy adds value to our product, improves the competitiveness of our growers and consequently contributes to the economic development of our country,” explains Mr Sauma. Minister Dobles adds: “there is an ethical responsibility here because climate change is everybody’s problem, however the Costa Rica banana industry also has a strong sense of social responsibility which differentiates them from competitors in the world markets.”
All actors involved in the banana industry have committed themselves to C-Neutrality by means of environmentally responsible management. The action plan was developed by the Banana Environment Commission (CAB in its Spanish acronym), formed by the following local actors:
- ANAPROBAN, National Chamber of Banana Producers
- Ministry of Environment and Energy
- Ministry of Health
- University of Costa Rica
- Chamber of Agriculture Inputs
- Standard Fruit Company, multinational marketer of fresh fruit
- Del Monte, multinational marketer of fresh fruit
- BANACOL, national marketer of fresh fruit
- Chiquita Brand’s, multinational marketer of fresh fruit
- Fyffes, multinational marketer of fresh fruit
Costa Rica is an international leader on green issues, with protected areas like national parks and biological reserves covering more than a quarter of its territory. It is the first tropical nation to reverse deforestation. Thanks to conservation and replanting, its forest cover has increased from 21 percent in 1986 to 51 percent today. The country also generates 78 percent of its energy with hydroelectric power and another 18 percent by wind or geothermal power. The next step is to cut emissions from transport, farming, and industry.
CORBANA (the National Banana Corporation of Costa Rica) promotes and develops Costa Rica’s banana industry. Founded in 1971, CORBANA is a public non-governmental entity. Its main objectives are to foster the sustainable development of the banana industry, to advise the Government in the area of internal policies likely to affect the banana industry and to carry out research in the agricultural sector. Also, it supports the Government with regard to international banana negotiations.
For further information and phone interviews with Jorge Sauma, CEO of Corbana, and/or Jorge Sandoval, Corbana’s Research Director, please contact: