Known for its tropical vistas and banana plantations, Costa Rica has also developed a well-deserved reputation for stability. Indeed, since abolishing its military in 1949, the small Central American nation has celebrated seven decades of uninterrupted democracy. While this stability has allowed Costa Rica to make great strides in alleviating poverty, nearly 21 percent of the country still remains impoverished. To this end, many in Costa Rica increasingly turn to microfinance as a potential remedy.

Why Microfinance?

Microfinance is a banking service that focuses on delivering small loans to communities underserved by traditional banks. These ‘microloans’ can be as low as $100 and are specifically designed to help meet the needs of low-income families.

Because the principal of a microloan is much smaller than that of a traditional loan, lenders can afford to take on risks they otherwise could not. This means less stringent requirements on things like documentation and property, which are traditionally the largest obstacles to acquiring credit for those living in poverty. As a result, microfinance has become a favorite tool of activists in the developing world.

Costa Rica is no exception in that regard. With more than half of Costa Ricans unable to raise needed funds in an emergency, microfinanciers provide the country a crucial service.

Keeping Small Farmers and Rural Communities Afloat

One reason microfinance has been able to take off so quickly in Costa Rica lies in the country’s history. In the 1980s, a prolonged economic crisis prompted traditional banks to retreat en masse from Costa Rica’s rural areas. This left many small farmers suddenly lacking access to badly needed credit.

To help combat this issue, organizations like FINCA began seeking ways to encourage sustainability in rural financial markets. One such solution was microfinance.

Beginning in 1984, FINCA Costa Rica set about building a series of ‘village banks’ in the areas hit hardest by the loss of financial services. These were largely community-run, shared-liability ventures whose purpose would be to offer microloans to farmers. It did not take long for the model to become a success. Village banks quickly began to attract Costa Rican farmers, many of whom would have had difficulty acquiring a standard loan. In fact, the village banks would prove so popular that within a decade they had already become self-sustaining.

Others in Costa Rica soon took note of FINCA’s success. Though not all would copy the village bank model, many other microfinancing operations began to sprout up around the country.

Empowering Costa Rican Women

While FINCA’s village banks primarily served a demographic consisting of rural, male farmers, modern microfinanciers pursue a more diverse client base. Women in particular are a focus for many.

Research demonstrates a sharp gap in financial access along gender lines in Costa Rica. Thirty-nine percent of Costa Rican women lack a bank account, for instance, compared to 25 percent of men. This is a pattern that largely holds consistent across the developing world. Although in many cases women provide necessary income for their families, they often lack the means to build upon those earnings. This leaves them more vulnerable to the sudden economic shocks that can devastate a household, like personal medical emergencies and unexpected changes in consumer trends.

Microfinance institutions empower these women, however, by offering them the credit needed to start a business of their own, and by providing them with a newfound resiliency.

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like Fundación Mujer, women now own more than 22 percent of Costa Rican businesses. And, as the number of women gaining access to loans and other financial services increases, that percentage is only expected to grow. This means greater social mobility for Costa Rican women and a stronger ability to weather the storm in times of crisis.

The Future of Microfinance in Costa Rica

Microfinance in Costa Rica has come a long way from its first experiments with village banks in the 1980s. As it stands, Costa Rica is now one of the world’s largest microfinance markets. And, with the industry expected to grow by a further 5-10 percent in Latin America over the next decade, it is unlikely that will change any time soon.

While experts caution that microfinance cannot be seen as a ‘miracle cure’ for poverty, it is undeniable that it can provide real benefits to those in need. To see that, one only has to consider the success of microfinance in Costa Rica.

– James Roark

Photo: Pixabay.com

Hunger in Costa RicaCosta Rica, officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica, is a Central American country located just south of Nicaragua. Over the past decade, many Central American countries, including Costa Rica, have had struggles with malnourishment. Hunger in Costa Rica was a national issue between 2011-2013. According to a report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 8.2 percent of the population of Costa Rica was “chronically malnourished.”

Poverty in Costa Rica

Costa Rica does not have a problem producing food. When there are foods it cannot produce they are imported. Costa Rica’s food problem is that citizens cannot afford the food they need. Estimates placed the unemployment rate at 18 percent, a bad mix with the fact that Costa Rica already has a high cost of living due to its location.

However, by 2017, there had been massive improvements and reductions in hunger in Costa Rica. The International Food Policy Research Institute found that by 2016, Costa Rica has already reduced its proportion of undernourished citizens to just 3.8 percent.

As mentioned before, the economy was the biggest factor that contributed to hunger in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has focused on building its economy over the past five years. In fact, Costa Rica has grown its economy by 3.5 percent annually at that time.

Increasing Business

One of the ways its economy has grown is to make the business environment more attractive. Costa Rica has reduced its licensing requirements, which will take away some of the hurdles for new business owners. Costa Rica has also focused on growing its trade market. Exports and imports together make up about 72 percent of GDP. The majority of these exports are bananas, coffee and sugar.

Although increasing the economy has helped reduce hunger, a new type of malnourishment is becoming a problem: obesity. Almost a quarter of the adult population is obese, and more than 60.4 percent of people are deemed overweight. Even the adolescent population is suffering from obesity: 8.1 percent of children under five are overweight.

Many Costa Ricans do not view obesity as a problem because being bigger is seen as “normal”. There is a term used called “gordita.” A gordita is a type of Mexican pastry, and the word is used as a slang term used affectionately for someone who is overweight. Costa Rica, as well as the rest of Central America, has a growing problem with obesity. Just like its struggles with hunger, the country will find a solution to this rising problem.

Scott Kesselring
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Among Indigenous Peoples in Central America
Indigenous people in Central America have struggled against prejudice and a lack of visibility for hundreds of years. This struggle to maintain their place throughout the region has taken a toll on the living conditions and health among their communities. Here is more information about poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America.

Costa Rica

Approximately 1.5 percent of the population of Costa Rica is made up of indigenous people. They are considered among the most marginalized and economically excluded minorities in Central America. Approximately 95 percent of people living in Costa Rica have access to electricity. The majority of indigenous peoples in the country are included in the remaining five percent. Many believe this is due to a lack of attention from the government in the concerns of indigenous people and the living conditions in their communities.

A lack of education is also a problem among indigenous peoples in Costa Rica. The average indigenous child in Costa Rica receives only 3.6 years of schooling and 30 percent of the indigenous population is illiterate. In the hopes of reaching out to indigenous communities and reducing their poverty rates, the University of Costa Rica instituted a plan in 2014 to encourage admissions from indigenous peoples from across the country. By 2017, the program was involved in the mentoring of 400 indigenous high school students and saw 32 new indigenous students applying for the university.

Guatemala

Indigenous peoples make up about 40 percent of the population in Guatemala and approximately 79 percent of the indigenous population live in poverty. Forty percent of the indigenous population lives in extreme poverty. With these levels of poverty among the indigenous people, many are forced to migrate, as the poorest are threatened with violence among their communities. Ninety-five percent of those under the age of 18 who migrate from Guatemala are indigenous.

One organization working to improve the living conditions for indigenous people in Guatemala is the Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya (ODIM). ODIM, which was started with the intention to support the indigenous Maya people, focuses on providing health care and education to indigenous people in Guatemala. One program it supports is called “Healthy Mommy and Me,” which focuses on offering mothers and their young children access to health care, food and education. These efforts are benefiting 250 indigenous women and children across Guatemala.

Honduras

In Honduras, 88.7 percent of indigenous children lived in poverty in 2016. Approximately 44.7 percent of indigenous adults were unemployed. Nineteen percent of the Honduran indigenous population is illiterate, in comparison to 13 percent of the general population. Despite the wide span of indigenous peoples across Honduras, they struggle to claim ownership of land that belonged to their ancestors. Only 10 percent of indigenous people in Honduras have a government-accredited land title.

Due to the poverty indigenous people in Honduras face, many seek opportunities in more urban areas, but the cities simply don’t have the capacity to support them all. As a result, many settle just outside of the cities to be close to opportunities. There are more than 400 unofficial settlements near the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. Despite the difficulties they face in living just outside of a city that has no room for them, being in urban areas does have its benefits for indigenous people. Ninety-four percent of indigenous people living in urban Honduras are literate, versus 79 percent in rural areas.

For those among the indigenous peoples in Honduras who struggle with poverty, Habitat for Humanity has put a special focus on indigenous people in its construction programs. Habitat for Humanity worked with different ethnic groups within the indigenous community to provide homes for those most in need, reaching 13,810 people throughout Honduras.

Panama

Poverty affects more than 70 percent of indigenous people in Panama. Among their communities, health problems and a lack of access to clean water are common.

In 2018, the World Bank approved a project to improve health, education, water and sanitation among 12 different indigenous groups in Panama. The Comprehensive National Plan for Indigenous Peoples of Panama aims to implement positive development in indigenous communities while protecting and maintaining the culture within those communities.

The aim of this project is to create a positive relationship between indigenous peoples and the government in Panama to further developments of their communities down the road. It is projected to assist some 200,000 people through improved living conditions and infrastructure among indigenous communities.

With poor access to an education and a certain level of prejudice fueling a wage gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people, natives globally face a unique challenge in their efforts to escape poverty. In many countries around the world, indigenous people are forgotten and often fall to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. This creates particularly difficult circumstances for indigenous peoples of regions that already have high poverty rates overall. However, people like those who work with the World Bank are working to see a reduction in poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America and see that indigenous people are not forgotten and are no longer neglected.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a truly unique place; it contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity and people categorize it as one of the happiest countries in the world. Its economy is stable, showing a little more than a 3 percent yearly growth rate. Costa Rica has had some challenges with sanitation but is working to improve it throughout the country. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica

  1. Around 99 percent of the population has access to a water source, but only 82 percent have continued access to a reliable water drinking source. This number has improved since 2015 when only 92.4 percent of people had access to a clean water source. Moreover, clean water access is continuing to improve with community and public-based programs such as Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA), an organization that works to raise funding to expedite current projects to provide nationwide access to water.
  2. Costa Rica’s unpredictable climate and susceptibility to natural disasters are its biggest hurdles to developing better infrastructure for water sanitation. For example, a drought in Costa Rica from 2014 to 2016 caused by El Niño drastically hindered the construction of new infrastructure to expand water access in the country. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank predicts that Costa Rica’s water supply will reduce by half by 2050, despite increasing demand.
  3. The Integrated Water Supply Programme for Guanacaste (PIAAG) works with other organizations to implement fixed and long-lasting solutions to water sanitation. Proposed solutions to improving water sanitation include irrigation, drainage and drinking water projects. More institutions developed a plan from 2018-2030 to maintain ecosystems while improving water sanitation and access.
  4. Pollution of water sources, mainly through human activity and inefficient land usage, also drastically affects the availability of water to citizens. In order to fix the problem of water pollution, Costa Rica provides incentives to clean up water sources. The National Water Laboratory monitors the use of agricultural pesticides and their runoff.
  5. Costa Rica currently treats only 14 percent of wastewater before releasing it to the public, but Costa Rica is trying to fix this problem. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan emerged in 2017, and it hopes to safely manage all wastewater by the year 2045. The organization allocated $3.6 million to expand access to water in urban areas and $2.5 million to increase water access and quality in rural areas. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan became public policy in 2017.
  6. Across the country, several projects to clean sewage are taking place, including eight projects in tourist areas and 10 to improve the conditions of existing sewage plants. For example, the Administrations Associations of the Systems of the Aqueducts and Communal Sewers (ASADAS) works to build, monitor, operate and maintain rural water aqueducts. Water sanitation projects in Costa Rica receive funding from inside the country and from foreign countries, like Germany, which funded eight coastal projects.
  7. The fast population growth and desire of citizens to live in urban areas of the country, rather than rural areas, has further complicated the sewage problem. This, in some cases, leaves inadequate sewage in the overcrowded cities. In the most populated cities, only 19.4 percent of sewage receives treatment. Many regulations in Costa Rica, such as “Ley General de Salud” (General Health Law), have emerged to establish basic requirements for water sewage in Costa Rica.
  8. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health is an important organization that works to provide people improved access to sanitation. For example, the Ministry of Health controls the National Observatory of Human Resources in Health. It establishes academic and research institutions to study the causes and effects of poor sanitation, along with social government organizations that advocate for government action through public policy.
  9. During Hurricane Otto in 2016, waterborne viruses such as Zika and dengue spread among the population, and the Ministry of Health sent workers to help control the outbreak. Soon after, President Luis Guillermo Solís stated that the government would build more toilets, showers and water fountains for residents. The Ministry of Health also sends garbage trucks to pick up trash around especially populated urban areas.
  10. The last of the 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica discusses child mortality in Costa Rica, which has decreased greatly over the past few decades, going from 68 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to about 8.8 per 1,000 live births in 2018. One can attribute the decrease to an extension of health care programs to rural and communal areas.

While Costa Rica still has far to go in improving its sanitation, the overall sanitation of the country has improved greatly over the past few decades. These 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica demonstrate Costa Rica’s planned pathway to improving sanitation, and overall, Costa Rica’s future is looking bright.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica
Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Costa Rica is famous for its thriving wildlife, but what many may not realize is that Costa Rica prides itself as one of the greenest countries in the world. Here are 10 facts about renewable energy in Costa Rica.

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

  1. Most of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources. More than 99 percent of the energy in Costa Rica was generated from renewable sources in 2019. According to the country’s National Center for Energy Control, Costa Rica has been running on more than 98 percent renewable energy since 2014. The majority of this energy, 67.5 percent, comes from hydropower. Additionally, wind power generates 17 percent, geothermal sources make up 13.5 percent and biomass and solar panels comprise 0.84 percent. The remaining 1.16 percent is from backup plants.
  2. Costa Rica has universal access to electricity. Costa Rica has an estimated population of 5.05 million people. In 2018, at least 79 percent of the population lived in urban areas, and 20 percent lived in rural areas. Both rural and urban populations benefit from renewable energy in Costa Rica, as 100 percent of the households have access to electricity generated from renewable sources.
  3. Costa Rica lasted 300 consecutive days on renewable energy alone. Costa Rica set the record in 2017 for most consecutive days with renewable energy. The previous record for this feat was in 2015 when Costa Rica lasted 299 consecutive days on pure, clean energy.
  4. Deforestation has successfully been reversed in Costa Rica. Deforestation is detrimental to both civilization and wildlife. It can make agricultural practices and maintaining food supply difficult as it can lead to climate change, desertification, soil erosion and increased greenhouse gases. Beginning in the 1980s, the government of Costa Rica implemented policies to protect its natural forests. By 2016, the amount of land covered by forest has doubled to more than 50 percent of the country’s total landmass.
  5. Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program. Costa Rica created the PES program in the 1990s as part of protective policies put in place to combat deforestation. The success of renewable energy in Costa Rica is partially due to the pioneering of this program. Through it, landowners receive direct payments for ecological services when they adopt techniques that do not negatively impact the environment and maintain quality of life. The ecological services that can be provided include clean water, irrigation, energy production, biodiversity and scenic beauty. This allows for landowners, especially farmers, to earn an extra income even during unprofitable seasons.
  6. Costa Rica is producing so much energy that it can be sold. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) began selling its energy surplus to Central America’s Regional Electricity Market in 2015. The electricity helps power Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador. By 2019, Costa Rica has earned more than $180 million in sales of surplus energy.
  7. Costa Rica has committed to eliminating fossil fuels. In 2018, Costa Rica’s new president, Carlos Alvarado, announced at his inauguration that he plans to ban all fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized country. The plan will begin in 2021 and features ideas that tackle problems in the transportation sector, such as implementing fully electric trains by 2050.
  8. There’s a roadblock in Costa Rica’s green vision. The transportation sector is one of Costa Rica’s weakest links. Much of the infrastructure, even in cities, is in poor condition. This leads to more people relying on cars than on public transportation. Costa Rica’s State of the Region reports that there are 287 cars per 1,000 people. Fewer than 2 percent of these cars are hybrids or electric cars. This generates a demand for fossil fuels (oil) with gas spending on the rise.
  9. Additionally, 82 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Nearly all households in Costa Rica have access to an improved water source. An improved water source includes piped water in a home or from another source, such as a public tap, wells or rainwater collection. However, this doesn’t mean that all households have water safe for drinking. Even though most of Costa Rica’s renewable energy comes from hydropower, the water supply is not very clean. About 18 percent of Costa Rica’s population lacks access to drinking water due to a shortage of infrastructure and government support. Unfortunately, minority groups make up this 18 percent, including people who are indigenous, impoverished, Afro-descendants and migrant workers.
  10. People in Costa Rica live healthier, longer lives. In a 2015 study by Bloomberg, Costa Rica was ranked as the healthiest country in Latin America and 24th in the world. Additionally, Costa Rica has one of the highest average life expectancy at 80 years. In fact, according to a study in 2016, Costa Rica’s poor live longer than the poor in the United States. Further, the lack of access to healthcare in the U.S. could be part of the reason why. This could also be due to psychosocial factors. Costa Rica’s unofficial slogan is Pura Vida, meaning “pure life.” Pura Vida is about slowing down and relaxing to enjoy what life has to offer.

Costa Rica is by no means perfect. As the government devotes much of its efforts to environmental sustainability, it takes away from maintaining infrastructure throughout the country. However, it is clear that Costa Rica is doing something right. The majority of the population has access to clean water and electricity, which is due to the enormous production of renewable energy. “Pura Vida” may just be a saying in Costa Rica, but it certainly connects to the country’s commitment to relying on what nature has to offer.

Emily Young 
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Fisheries in Costa Rica
The world knows Costa Rica, a country in Central America, for its fishery practices. Tourism and recreational fishing produces about $331 million yearly and has also created more than 60,000 work opportunities. Fisheries in Costa Rica are notorious for the increasing number of women that manage the nation’s industry; only 2 percent of women are entrepreneurs in Costa Rica.

Women’s Work in Fisheries

Jeannette Pérez, a business leader, began working at a local fishery after moving to Costa Rica a few years prior. In 2018, Pérez began taking part in the Action Plan of the National Platform of Sustainable Large Pelagic Fisheries, organized by UNDP through its Green Commodities Programme. The Green Commodities Programme’s goal is to discover modern solutions to progress the environmental, economic and social operations of pelagic species such as tuna, mahi-mahi and swordfish, which are all fish that have suffered a recent decline.

Pérez has nearly 30 years of experience in the recreational fishing industry. She is also the main leader in Costa Rica’s mission to implement sustainable practices as per the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Pérez is also the first female to serve on the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Pérez feels that the organization, National Platform for Sustainable Large Pelagics Fisheries, is necessary for the fisheries in Costa Rica to maintain their fishing practices and to conquer the current issue involving a limited supply of fish.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, which oversees the fishing industry in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, runs the organization. The United Nations Development Program developed it with funds from the Global Environment Fund.

National Plan for Sustainable Practices

Costa Rica is also the first country across the globe that has implemented a National Plan for Sustainable Pelagic Fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock oversees it with the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The Global Environment Facility also provides support and funds.

In 2018, the nation introduced legislation that would ensure the expansion of the traditional fishing department of fisheries in Costa Rica and also serve the community.

A Community Based Approach

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) establishes a plan for the essential conduct of small-scale fisheries in Costa Rica by incorporating suitable resolutions, increasing government support and advancing economic resources. In conjunction with this bill, the nation highlighted the importance of acknowledging the efforts of smaller fisheries in providing a supply of food as well as nutrition security, which has the potential to decrease poverty, particularly in regard to employing women in local fisheries.

Altogether, Costa Rica plans to develop a foundation for the fisheries based on human rights, such as satisfactory labor, economic opportunities, gender equity and climate change. It also intends to continue to focus on safe fishing practices along with market promotions.

Costa Rica has begun making progress by collaborating with federal officials, other fishermen, the community and other organizations along with higher education research. It is doing this by learning about how other countries manage their fisheries across the globe.

– Diana Dopheide
Photo: Max Pixel

Environmental Justice
When thinking about reducing poverty, environmental protection may not come to mind as something to be put in the same category. However, environmental protection and poverty reduction go hand in hand and achieving environmental justice is a vital step in fully ending global poverty.

Preserving the environment means protecting air quality and water sanitation, as well as land to produce food. Additionally, it means preserving the health of both humans and animals. Yet according to DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction, the poorest countries and people in the world are the most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. DAC Guidelines say that the key to reducing poverty is integrating “sustainable development, including environmental concerns, into strategic frameworks for reducing poverty.” Therefore, protecting the environment can reduce poverty if people take the correct steps.

Countries Taking a Stand

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), around 20 percent of the total loss of life expectancy in developing countries is due to environmental causes, compared to only 4 percent in advanced countries. In addition, 99 percent of deaths related to using unsafe water or having limited access to clean water occurs in developing countries.

Countries around the world are aware of the impact that environmental degradation has on poor communities specifically, and programs and leaders are taking action in order to protect the environment and make safe living spaces for the poor. Specifically, researchers in Costa Rica are working to show exactly how protecting the environment can reduce poverty in poorer countries and communities.

Costa Rica’s researchers’ ultimate goal was to show the effect that environmental issues have on poor communities and how environmental protection can reduce poverty. Two professors, Paul J. Ferraro and Merlin M. Hanauer, found that Costa Rican poverty reduced by 16 percent by protecting natural areas and that around  “two-thirds of the poverty reduction associated with the establishment of Costa Rican protected areas is causally attributed to opportunities afforded by tourism.”

In turn, Ferraro’s and Hanauer’s findings have demonstrated that improved conservation programs and policies are necessary to reduce poverty in poor communities even further. The goal of conserving wild areas for the purpose of ecotourism could potentially lead to more job creation, a growing economy, the reduction of deforestation and a refuge for wildlife in poor areas and developing countries. Costa Rica is taking the initiative to clean up the environment and create a healthier living space for citizens, yet most countries still face day-to-day environmental justice. For this reason, the world must take further steps to allow every person to have environmental justice.

The Truth About Environmental Justice

The EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” The EPA emphasizes that the goal of environmental justice will only be met once every person around the world has both the same accessibility to protection from natural disasters and environmental/health hazards and the equal right to partake in community and country decision-making about environmental health.

While environmental justice is a goal of a lot of different communities, countries and organizations, environmental injustice is very prevalent around the world. The result is that the most vulnerable and financially unstable people on earth feel the global impact of environmental degradation the most severely. Although developed nations like the United States and those of Europe emit larger quantities of greenhouse gases per capita, developing nations often experience the worst effects of environmental degradation and air pollutants. This is because people living in developing countries often do not have the financial support to be able to move to less polluted areas, and usually have inadequate housing and limited resources, which makes it nearly impossible to adapt to environmental disasters.

Ways to Support Environmental Justice for All Humans

Protecting the environment can reduce poverty, but poverty reduction is also just as important in order to protect the environment. UNICEF states that girls in poor communities often do not go to school because they have to fetch water for their families. As a result, they often do not know the importance of conserving the environment and natural resources because they have not had the opportunity to learn about it.

According to 1 Million Women, 70 percent of the world’s people that live below the poverty line depend solely on natural resources for survival. Yet without clean water or proper waste and garbage disposal systems, escaping pollution is almost impossible. Therefore, supporting and donating to nonprofit organizations that help to provide resources for the world’s poorest and aim to stop environmental degradation is vital. In addition, taking small steps like eating more a plant-based diet, buying sustainable products, volunteering for community cleanups and educating others can make an enormous difference in protecting the environment, and in turn, reducing poverty.

These steps are crucial in supporting not only the environment but also the communities and developing nations around the world that battle environmental justice every day of their lives. In addition to small changes that every person can make to help the most vulnerable against environmental degradation and health hazards, organizations and federal agencies are also helping drastically. Specifically, the EPA started EJSCREEN in 2015, which creates data that shows the environmental demographics across the country and also assists federal agencies in allowing the public to view the impacts of environmental injustice in every area open to new development. By opening up this information to the public, people may be more cautious before blindly living in an area in which they may feel the effects of environmental injustice. With more and more companies and organizations supporting sustainability and environmental justice every day, these trends could increase and start to make an even bigger difference.

Change Starts with Individuals

The link between environmental protection and poverty reduction is clear, and it is imperative that nations and communities continuously work towards a healthier environment in order to secure the well-being of future generations. Protecting the environment can reduce poverty while the smallest changes to one’s life can make a huge difference to the globe.

Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr

poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica
While Costa Rica is a country filled with natural beauty and vibrant culture, the small Central American nation is not immune to poverty and other issues that involve human rights and living conditions. Approximately 21 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and Costa Rica continues to be a source and destination for human trafficking and forced labor. Costa Rica is currently classified as a Tier 2 Watchlist country according to the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning that its government does not fully comply with anti-trafficking regulations and NGOs complete more progressive work than the government itself. That said, the government has taken an alternative approach by attempting to combine the issues of poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica, one that it hopes will assist in both the conservation of Costa Rica’s rich ecosystems while simultaneously reducing its poverty levels.

Environmentally-Conscious Poverty Initiatives

Costa Rica’s government has made a concerted effort to combat its poverty and modernize its economy without harming its most important resource: its vibrant environment. From instituting cleaner industrial and agricultural practices to creating more jobs by embracing its growing tourism industry, Costa Rica has eclipsed the impoverished fate of its Central American neighbors and will continue to develop into an efficient and comfortable society.

Costa Rica has implemented programs that aim to benefit the economy, the environment and the nation’s individuals and families. For example, the government has instituted a system centered around payments for environmental services (PES) that incentivizes greener practices for industries like agriculture in exchange for payments from the government. PES works especially well for farmers and other landowners because it gives them the opportunity to receive financial rewards for assisting or maintaining environmental services that benefit other Costa Ricans and the environment.

Most of the advantages come in the form of tax compensation and write-offs, which helps poorer farmers by decreasing their tax burdens. The system’s environmental impact has been large too, as nearly one million hectares of forested Costa Rican land has been a part of PES since its start in 1997. This means that more Costa Rican land and wildlife are receiving protection, thus also allowing for agriculture and tourism industries to thrive and provide job opportunities for Costa Ricans.

Agricultural Cooperatives

Another way in which the Costa Rican government has aimed to combat poverty while simultaneously helping the environment is through the encouragement of the formation of more agricultural cooperatives. From coffee beans to pineapples, Costa Rican farmers are continuing to form more organized cooperatives to ensure that they see a more bountiful financial return on the production of their respective crops. For instance, a cooperative called CoopeTarrazú has grown to over 400 coffee farmers, all of whom process and market their crops as part of the cooperative. Cooperatives like these not only give farmers the opportunity to make more money, but they also become valuable consultation resources for the government and NGOs interested in implementing any sort of programs involving crops like coffee.

Ecotourism

Aside from specific initiatives and organizations, Costa Rica has also been investing in its ecotourism industry as one of the country’s biggest assets. Many people from around the world travel to Costa Rica to take in the nation’s natural beauty and diverse wildlife, so the government knows that increasing the quality of its tourist attractions and facilities will allow it to attract and take in more tourists. This creates a positive cycle that creates many jobs (such as tour guides), keeps tourists coming to the country and maintains protection of the environment. The government began efforts to protect the environment in the 1990s, and since then, it has instituted many laws and regulations that protect this asset. In fact, Costa Rica outlawed hunting for sport in 2012, a move that protects the balance of the ecosystem, forests and fertile farmland.

Protection for the Future

Like many other countries, Costa Rica experiences an urban-rural poverty divide. Approximately 30 percent of rural homes fall below the poverty line compared to more than 19 percent of urban homes. That said, Costa Rica has made progress in terms of combatting rural poverty while also pushing and incentivizing greener practices for poorer farmers and landowners. Though many issues require solving, the government has clearly found an effective way to address both poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica at the same time, thus creating a sustainable economic climate with more opportunities for farmers and rural landowners to emerge from poverty.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica

When people think of the country of Costa Rica, they often picture its lush and beautiful terrain. Each year, approximately 1.7 million people visit the country. That is almost a third of their total population. Although many people visit Costa Rica for its natural beauty, there is another side of tourism that may be less familiar. Medical tourism in Costa Rica is thriving. This type of tourism involves patients traveling to receive faster or more cost-effective medical care.

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica: Fast Facts

Healthcare in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has socialized healthcare. The basis for their nearly universal coverage comes from CCSS (Costa Rican Social Security Administration) legislation. The constitution of Costa Rica does not protect healthcare. However, social security is guaranteed. Article 21 of their constitution provides a basis, although not explicit, for the right to healthcare.

Costa Rica has three levels of healthcare: primary care, regional hospitals, and national hospitals. The primary care tier focuses on testing and a smaller percentage of the population. The second tier centers around emergency services and deeper diagnostics. Finally, the third tier serves those with serious health complications.

The country has been cited as a leader in healthcare of the region. With reforms in place, infant mortality swiftly decreased by 69 percent. Shockingly, the percent of deaths as a result of infectious disease fell by 98 percent.

Following the initial reforms, funding for healthcare grew dismal and economic crisis began in the 1980s. Throughout this period of economic decline, foreign aid helped the population of Costa Rica and kept public health steady.

Even with the contributions of other countries, the CCSS was still struggling financially. Policy changes have since been implemented with the goal of providing financial stability for the CCSS, with varied results.

Despite some complications with the execution of CCSS, it is still impressive that Costa Rica ranks 36th in overall efficiency. This is out of 191 countries as evaluated by the WHO.

Improved Healthcare Increases Medical Tourism in Costa Rica

Overall, health in Costa Rica has improved over time. As of 2017, the under-five mortality rate, logged by UNICEF, has been in continuous decline since 1990. Additionally, the percentage of children receiving all of the doses for DTP and measles are both above 90 percent. The health of mother and child are generally above average compared to the neighboring countries.

Due to the reduced cost and increased quality of healthcare, medical tourism in Costa Rica is a growing industry. Along with the boost for the economy in the medical sector, medical tourists also spend money on recreational activities. In Costa Rica, medical tourism is a new facet of tourism and is expected to expand in the future.

-Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr