Costa Rica, which is home to around 5% of the world’s biodiversity, is one of the few countries that has managed to reverse deforestation in the last 30 years and expand its forest cover, thanks, to a large extent, to state programs that recognize the contribution to environmental conservation made by farm and land owners.
Internationally recognized for its environmental policies, Costa Rica has implemented initiatives such as the Emissions Reduction Program and the Payments for Environmental Services Program, which offer landowners the possibility of conserving the environment and forests, as well as reforesting, while generating economic income.
Hansy Rodríguez is a farmer from northeastern Costa Rica who has evolved into a tree planting activity on land that was previously deforested or used for cattle ranching, a change that exemplifies the country’s policy of conserving the environment while generating economic and social benefits for communities. “The carbon capture project is very important. I was a farmer, I still am but I am changing to create a different mind and move on to conservation and climate change mitigation to see if we can contribute”, Rodríguez said.
On his farm located in the town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, close to the Costa Rican Caribbean, Rodríguez has decided to conserve the forest and trees such as the yellow almond tree, the main source of food for the green macaw, an endangered species, and at the same time to plant melina trees, valued for their good wood and which will provide a significant economic income to the producer.
“Perennial” and “Sustainable”
The melina takes about 6 years to reach the usable size for wood and during that time it will serve as a home, shelter and food for birds and other animal species, and will also fix carbon. “The neighbors around here tell us that the freshness of the trees is already felt and even the schools have come to plant trees”, he commented. Rodríguez affirms that this reforestation system is “perennial” and sustainable, since if melina trees are cut, which is allowed, there are already dozens more planted on the farm, and also the tree itself “hijea” (regrows).
These types of projects, which benefit both the producer and the environment, are part of programs such as Payments for Environmental Services run by the National Fund for Forest Financing (Fonafifo) of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae). Rodríguez’s farm adjoins the La Selva biological station, of the Organization for Tropical Studies, which also participates in state environmental programs for the protection of the forest. La Selva is considered a jewel for the conservation of flora and fauna and for scientific research, but it is under strong pressure at its limits due to the expansion of agricultural activities and also the effects of the climate crisis.
The support of the World Bank
Costa Rica’s initiatives have the support of international organizations such as the World Bank, which in 2020 approved US$ 60 million for the country as part of the Forest Carbon Cooperative Fund (FCPF), which meant recognition for having reversed deforestation and forest degradation, and because forests currently cover almost 60% of its national territory.
In 2022, the country became the first in Latin America and the Caribbean to receive a payment of US$16.4 million for reducing 3.28 million tons of carbon emissions between 2018 and 2019. This payment was the first of 3 provided for in the agreement with the World Bank to reduce emissions of up to 12 million tons of CO2 by 2025. The agreement establishes a system to reward local communities for their efforts in reducing emissions, including indigenous peoples and women in poor rural areas.
The Costa Rica Emissions Reduction Program aims to increase the impact at the national level of public policies that have been successfully applied over the last 30 years to protect forest landscapes. This includes strengthening the management of national protected areas, which cover 26% of the territory; expanding national programs for sustainable forest management, fire management, and landscape restoration; and extending the Payment for Environmental Services Program, which provides incentives to farmers and landowners in exchange for managing their land to provide an ecological service.