Blue economy in Costa Rica According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), poverty affects 26.2% of households in Costa Rica, representing more than 1.5 million people. This is the highest number since 1992. The Costa Rican poverty rate increased drastically because of the economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic development and improvement, through initiatives in creating a blue economy in Costa Rica, will help to reduce poverty and improve standards of living with sustainable development.

What is a Blue Economy?

According to the World Bank, a blue economy can be defined as the use of oceanic resources through sustainable methods in order to improve lives and job opportunities, while maintaining a clean marine ecosystem, which essentially stimulates economic growth. The main goal of a blue economy is to protect the health of the ocean and stimulate economic growth with increased opportunities in the areas of employment and innovation. A blue economy consists of several sectors that specialize in marine production like fisheries, aquaculture, renewable marine energy, marine biotechnology and maritime transport.

Establishing a Blue Economy in Costa Rica

Since Costa Rica is a coastal country that is rich in natural marine resources, the development of a blue economy will open new markets and result in economic growth. Costa Rica is abundant in offshore resources like tuna. Systems created by a blue economy can use these resources in sustainable ways. Another potential boost to the economy is the growth of sport fishing and ecotourism, which also results in increased job opportunities. The Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura (INCOPESCA) developed the $90 million Sustainable Fisheries Development Project to support the growth of a blue economy in Costa Rica through the development of sustainable fisheries and the support of fishing families.

Another project, the Oceans Economy and Trade Strategies (OETS) project, was implemented in Costa Rica in 2018 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United States Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS). The OETS project supports Costa Rica in the development of sustainable use of marine resources and maximizing potential economic benefits. Under the project, Costa Rica can develop sustainable fishing strategies to improve food security and health among citizens, which is characteristic of a blue economy.

Opportunities for Women

A blue economy in Costa Rica opens up more opportunities for women in the workforce. Gender inequality is a global issue that affects women in many areas, including jobs. If the gender gap is narrowed, the global GDP is estimated to grow by $13 trillion in 2030. Since women make up most of the workforce in fisheries and maritime tourism, blue economies benefit women the most in terms of poverty and health. Blue economies advance gender equality through an increase in technology and resources, which women oftentimes lack in the marine workforce. Increasing job opportunities for women in fisheries and marine tourism will diversify innovative aquaculture, which aids in further boosting the economy.

Additional Support

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) shows support for the strides made toward blue economies in Central America. The Central American project implemented by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in 2019 aims to help regulate challenges in the blue economy. The GEF contributed $6.8 million from the GEF Trust Fund toward the development of blue economies in Central America. The contribution goes toward assessing challenges and opportunities in the blue economies of Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. The financing will go toward collaboration within Central America to create the best methods to flourish in a blue economy.

Conclusively, these efforts will not only eradicate poverty in Costa Rica but also lead to more food security. Furthermore, they boost and empower the economic opportunities of women.

– Simone Riggins
Photo: Flickr

Organizations in Costa RicaAs of March 2021, Costa Rica has seen more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases. In January 2021, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado announced a signed budget to allocate funding for COVID-19 vaccines to 3.7 million residents older than 18. At the same time, organizations in Costa Rica are working to alleviate poverty and support refugees and citizens affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

HIAS Costa Rica

According to HIAS, a nonprofit that protects refugees worldwide, Costa Rica hosted 80,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Nicaragua and 20,000 from El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras and Venezuela. HIAS Costa Rica has focused on providing legal support and gender-based violence protection for asylum seekers since 2017. In an interview with The Borgen Project, HIAS Costa Rica’s country director, Gabriela Nunez, explains that the HIAS mission is to protect people seeking refuge in other countries.

Nunez states that the HIAS Costa Rica established the Supporting Economic Inclusion of Refugees and Asylum-Seeking Women Affected by COVID-19 project with the British Embassy. This project aided 20 Costa Rican women entrepreneurs affected by the pandemic by helping them develop skills to strengthen and innovate their businesses.

In late 2019, HIAS Costa Rica authorized an employment market study “to help design interventions that promote safe and sustainable livelihoods and help vulnerable people become self-reliant.” This study resulted in HIAS working on socioeconomic support projects including the Poverty Alleviation Coalition with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

HIAS Costa Rica’s collaboration with the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration helps with the Venezuelan refugee response on the R4V platform. R4V is a Venezuelan migrant and refugee coordination platform that has addressed Venezuelan migrant needs with partner organizations since 2018. R4V partner organizations helped 705 Venezuelans in Costa Rica acquire medical insurance in February 2021. Additionally, 16 Venezuelan homes obtained rental assistance in Costa Rica and 67 refugees received food.

The International Organization for Migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) began working with Costa Rica in 1954. The organization focuses on protecting immigrants in the country and improving the Costa Rican emigration process. IOM Costa Rica also collaborates with the government and partner organizations to address immigration challenges in Costa Rica.

The IOM supported the implementation of health protocols included in a binational agreement in which migrants work to harvest coffee in Los Santos, Costa Rica. The protocols called for the coffee companies to provide COVID-19 tests for 20% of the migrants entering Costa Rica, and on arrival, migrants must be quarantined for 14 days. Furthermore, in February 2021, the IOM donated emergency supplies to the Community Emergency Committee of Frailes in Desamparados, San José. The organization also opened a sixth migrant center in Limón, Costa Rica, in January 2021. The center focuses on integrating migrants into the workforce as a strategy to support Costa Rica.

Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) has represented Alajuelita, Costa Rica, since 2004. In 2020, FIMRC established a virtual volunteer program. FIMRC developed Project Alajuelita to serve the 12,500 Nicaraguan refugees and low-income Costa Ricans in the area. The organization established a clinic near Alajuelita because refugees are often excluded from the national healthcare system.

FIMRC field operations manager for Costa Rica, Tatiana Blanco, told The Borgen Project that the WhatsApp health education campaign and telepsychology line was initiated to replace group clinical care and health education programs during COVID-19. FIMRC director of global operations, Madeleine Randolet, told The Borgen Project that the Alajuelita WhatsApp campaign reached 630 people. The WhatsApp communications with those people totaled more than 40,000 messages throughout the pandemic. Randolet also stated that almost 40% of primary care and 84% of psychology sessions in Project Alajuelita were offered through virtual consultations in 2020. FIMRC delivered medications and health education to patients while maintaining social distancing protocols.

The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation

The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF) based in Santa Ana, Costa Rica, has helped indigenous and poverty-stricken populations since 1997. Its work recently focused on the 25,000 people living in La Carpio, Costa Rica. CRHF maintains its integral values of innovation, integrity, cooperation and cost-efficiency in all of its projects. CRHF executive director, Gail Nystrom, told The Borgen Project that the CRHF established two schools and programs relating to sports, refugees and women’s support in La Carpio. Nystrom reports that the CRHF fed 2,000 people per week with near-expired food. CRHF accomplished this through an Auto Mercado supermarket partnership that employed 10 people during COVID-19. Nystrom notes that the CRHF built five clinics in an indigenous area of Costa Rica. CRHF completed this task with help from a Japanese government grant in 2020.

Organizations in Costa Rica have focused on protecting vulnerable areas of Costa Rica during COVID-19. With assistance and aid from organizations, Costa Ricans can look toward a brighter tomorrow.

Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in costa ricaDespite being one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of free education, no military and access to health care, there are still many people living in poverty in Costa Rica and the youngest people are oftentimes hit the hardest. More than 65% of impoverished Costa Ricans are younger than 35 years old and children younger than age 18 make up the largest group of the impoverished. Additionally, many of the children facing child poverty in Costa Rica are Indigenous. When it comes to children, issues include child labor, child mortality and disparities in education.

4 Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

  1. Primary school in Costa Rica is free and mandatory. Free primary level education gives many children access to the education system. However, many children who come from impoverished families or rural areas miss out on education because they need to work to provide for their families. In 2020, 316 primary-aged children were not attending school and about 4% of lower secondary school-aged children were out of school. As a country that is a major producer of coffee, agricultural work and harvesting is a priority in Costa Rica. In fact, during the coffee bean harvest, the teachers and students in impoverished regions in Costa Rica go to the farms to work in order to afford school supplies.
  2. Costa Rica has a large number of child trafficking victims. In 2011, Costa Rica noted 36,000 orphans. Due to lacking family structures or dysfunctional families, many vulnerable children are at risk of exploitation, drug abuse and gang violence.
  3. Low child mortality rates. Costa Rica has the longest life expectancy in Latin America and an effective health care system and has also made strides in child mortality. In 2020, the mortality rate of children younger than 5 stood at 7.9 per 1,000 lives births, according to World Bank data, down from 96 in 1960. Child mortality rates are higher among children who are born into families living below the poverty line, Indigenous families or rural families.
  4. Violence against children in Costa Rica is a concern. In fact, Costa Rica noted about 700 sexual violence cases in 2009, according to Humanium, though organizations believe many more cases go unreported. The physical and psychological abuse and violence that children endure have serious consequences for their development and health.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages initially started with a commitment to caring for orphaned or abandoned children throughout the world. There are SOS Children’s Villages in three cities in Costa Rica: San José, Limón and Cartago. SOS Children’s Villages aim to address child poverty in Costa Rica.

The organization provides Costa Rican children with daycare, education, medical services and vocational training, sports facilities and playgrounds. SOS Children’s Villages takes in children whose parents cannot take care of them. The organization has a comprehensive approach: preventing child abandonment, offering long-term care for children in need and empowering young people with the resources to reach their full potential.

The organization’s YouthCan! program trains adolescents to enhance their skills and competencies in order to achieve employment. In Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people faced unemployment in 2016, the youth development program lasts for three to 12 months. The program consists of life skills training, employability training and helping the youth find jobs and further training opportunities.

Through organizations like the SOS Children’s Villages, child poverty in Costa Rica can reduce.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Costa RicaThe country of Costa Rica has an abundance of natural resources available. The particularly abundant renewable resources that Costa Rica uses in great quantity are wind and hydro energy. Costa Rica has embraced renewable energy and benefits from it in a multitude of ways, but there are also some less obvious ways the nation benefits from renewable energy.

Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

Renewable energy has helped small business owners and farmers. This would explain why so many of them are supportive of renewable energy. Since deforestation has largely come to a standstill because of renewable energy, the biodiversity in Costa Rica is able to remain. Costa Rica’s mass only makes up 0.03% of the Earth. Nonetheless, 6% of the Earth’s natural wealth and biodiversity is located within Costa Rica.

It is this biodiversity that has become so useful to the farmers of Costa Rica. Biodiversity reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides that the farmers would normally use. Other natural resources can be used for farming as well. Cacao shells, for example, can be used for mulch and farmers can use logs to make the soil richer.

Renewable Energy Helps Tourism

Tourism also benefits from renewable energy in Costa Rica and plays an extremely important role in Costa Rica’s economy. Tourism alone brings in about $1 billion to the country and employs around 155,000 people. This is a substantial amount of people in a country home to about 4 million people. Renewable energy indirectly helps protect tourism in Costa Rica, in particular, ecotourism. By protecting these natural resources, Costa Rica ensures that people will continue to visit the country to see the beauty of its natural and conserved environments.

The Los Santos Wind Power Project

Renewable energy has also helped small and local communities in many ways. Los Santos is one such area seeing these positive impacts. Los Santos particularly benefits from the use of wind energy as the area is one of the windiest regions within Costa Rica. Currently, the Lost Santos Wind Power Project is installing wind turbines in the region.

The project has built enough windmills in the area that the region is able to generate 12.75 MW of wind energy, provide 50,000 inhabitants with electricity and prevent around 15,000 tonnes of carbon from releasing into the atmosphere each year. The project can then sell the energy produced by the wind turbines to the government. The money that is earned can go toward helping the local community. For example, the profit from selling energy that is produced can go toward the construction of new schools. Additionally, the installation of wind turbines will also create new jobs for people. To keep turbines functioning and ensure they receive repairs when needed, technicians must be available to work on them.

Renewable Energy, Renewable Hope

Renewable energy in Costa Rica is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, as set out above. The money from the generation of renewable energy can go toward helping small communities. The tourism industry in Costa Rica will continue to thrive, and because the environment will remain undamaged, so will the amount of biodiversity that helps farmers.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

help Nicaraguan RefugeesThe massive protests in Nicaragua, which began in April of 2018, has led to a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Nicaraguans have left the country, the majority fleeing to neighboring Costa Rica. Civil unrest, poverty and COVID-19 have contributed to several issues Nicaraguan refugees are facing. Organizations have dedicated efforts to assist with the humanitarian crisis in Central America and help Nicaraguan refugees.

The Ortega Regime

In April 2018, Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, announced pension cuts for his citizens. Following the announcement, protesters filled the streets of multiple Nicaraguan cities. The protesters demanded that pension cuts be canceled and requested an end to the years of corruption committed by the Ortega regime. The protesters were met with violence, with more than 300 dead and thousands injured or missing. Journalists covering the anti-government protests were harassed and attacked by authorities, ultimately silencing the free press. The government has been accused of using ‘weapons of war’ on its citizens and committing human rights violations. Consequently, the political unrest has created a push factor for migration out of the country.

Two-thirds of Nicaraguan refugees have fled to neighboring Costa Rica. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), 81,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees. The UNCHR found that since the pandemic, 14% of refugees eat once a day or less and 63% of Nicaraguan refugees eat only two meals a day. Moreover, many Nicaraguans have lost steady income, increasing the chances of falling deeper into poverty.

Humanitarian Aid: UNCHR

To handle the influx of refugees into Costa Rica, the country needed assistance from NGOs. In February 2020, the UNCHR granted Costa Rica $4.1 million to reduce poverty for Nicaraguan refugees. Furthermore, the UNCHR grant pays for legal assistance and civil organizations that help migrants. As much as 53% of Nicaraguan refugees had no health insurance, but with the help of the UNCHR, around 6,000 now have medical insurance through the Costa Rican Social Security System.

The IFRC Helps Nicaraguan Refugees

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also actively partaking in addressing the humanitarian crisis for Nicaraguan refugees. The IFRC’s mission is to “meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.” Moreover, the IFRC is the largest humanitarian organization in the world,  assisting displaced people around the world with resources and relief. Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, called the migration crisis during a pandemic a “catastrophe.” Furthermore, Rocca has called the attention of government officials to take care of the most vulnerable, asylum seekers because they are most severely impacted by COVID-19.

Corner of Love Helps Migrants

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border restrictive, making it harder for migrants to cross. Additionally, the pandemic has created more uncertainty for the futures of Nicaraguan refugees. Despite these struggles, NGOs are not giving up on this vulnerable population. The NGO, Corner of Love, is assisting migrants at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. Corner of Love ensures migrants have access to food and hygiene products, thus contributing to the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees.

The efforts of organizations stepping in to help Nicaraguan refugees with the humanitarian crisis give struggling people hope for a brighter tomorrow.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

SDG 7 in Costa Rica
Costa Rica ranks 35th out of 193 countries in the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Report. This is quite an impressive feat for a Central American nation of just 5 million people. Especially when compared to its southern and northern neighbors — Panama and Nicaragua, which rank 81st and 85th, respectively. While challenges remain for many of Costa Rica’s sustainable development goals, the country is doing a remarkable job of achieving and maintaining SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. SDG 7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Costa Rica is often lauded as one of the greenest nations on Earth and is consistently viewed as a case study in the development and application of renewable energy. Below is a brief update on three components of SDG 7 in Costa Rica, i.e. affordable and clean energy.

Population with Access to Electricity

The latest U.N. estimate finds that 99.6% of Costa Ricans have access to electricity. This is great for not only the government (in their attempt to achieve the SDG 7) but for everyday Costa Ricans who have a steady stream of electricity. Costa Rica is ahead of the curve in the methods that it uses to generate power; 98% of its electricity comes from renewable energy sources. In breaking down this 98% figure into its parts — 72% is hydropower, 16% wind, 9% geothermal and 1% biomass/solar. This virtually universal access to electricity from renewable sources is the basis for providing affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica.

Access to Clean Fuels & Technology for Cooking

Clean cooking fuels and technology are classified by the SDG report as those that lead to fewer emissions and/or are more fuel-efficient. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kerosene is not a clean fuel. The SDG panel (composed of experts from the WHO, International Energy Agency, World Bank and other prominent organizations) estimates that nearly 3 billion people use “traditional stoves and fuels” which pose risks to human health, the environment and the climate.

Additionally, estimates point to household air pollution as the cause of death for 4.3 million people per year. Costa Rica’s nearly universal access to electricity and its foundation in renewable energy sources affords more than 93% of households access to clean fuels and technology for cooking. In contrast, just over 50% of Nicaraguan homes have access to clean energy and technology for daily cooking. Among Central American nations, Costa Rica leads the way in terms of progressing towards this fully realized, key component of SDG 7.

CO₂ Emissions: Fuel Combustion for Electricity & Heating

Costa Rica is bested in this statistic by only two nations in all of North and South America (Paraguay and Uruguay). While the SDG report lists Costa Rica as “on track” toward reaching zero emissions in this category, Costa Rica’s CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion for electricity and heating are marginally higher than its emissions in 2000. In this regard, SDG 7 in Costa Rica has room for improvement. However, both numbers are still lower than about 90% of all U.N. nations.

A Commitment to Further Progress

Affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica is a shining example of the country’s progress and strengths within its annual SDG report. This is due to Costa Rica’s stunning foundation of renewable energy and its commitment to developing and providing access to cheap, clean and reliable energy to citizens. The Ticos (native Costa Ricans) recognize the need to go even further and are dedicating themselves towards becoming a net-zero emitter by 2050 — with their recent Decarbonization Plan. Costa Rica is a model for countries seeking a shift towards clean energy amid the stark realities of the 21st-century climate situation.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Innovation in Poverty Eradication in Costa RicaCosta Rica, a country in Central America known for its beautiful Caribbean beaches and biodiversity, has the lowest rate of poverty in Central America. However, rural areas still struggle somewhat with poverty. About 20% of Costa Ricans are currently living under the poverty line, making less than $155 a month. Thankfully, there are many innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica helping those most affected. New technologies, for example, are helping with education both remotely and in school. Here are a few innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica.

Education in Costa Rica

Academically, Latin America falls behind in mathematics. Children at a young age need to learn math to get a good start in school. But without resources, children in Costa Rica struggle to get a quality education. This not only affects their test scores but also their mindsets.

High-level education is also a problem in Costa Rica. As a small country, Costa Rica lacks the required resources to provide high-quality education for all of its students. About 4% of the country’s population 15 or older currently doesn’t know how to read and write. Poor early education often leads to illiteracy in teenagers. With preschool starting at the age of four, it is important that kids get a good start right away. Thankfully, there are innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica working to improve education in Costa Rica.

Tech Innovation in Costa Rica

To solve this issue, researchers and the country’s education ministry have implemented a pilot program focused on math and programming skills for preschool students. The Pensalo program offers a highly intelligent robot named “Albert” to assist students. This robot scans a series of flashcards, helps with sharpening memory and shows instructions that use mathematical and numerical concepts. This innovation in poverty eradication in Costa Rica has impacted 392 schools in four different provinces. So far, this robot has given children a great start to education.

Albert’s Impact

SK Telecom designed Albert after an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to figure out a solution so that kids can have more opportunities to grow and learn in Costa Rica. With IDB being a good source of development in financing for Latin America, it was able to provide 1,500 robots for schools. Not only does this help education in Costa Rica, but it can also set a good influence in different countries. Albert shows that Costa Rica is able to create a sustainable level of quality education.

This is one of many innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica that have helped provide a good education to young students. Thanks to the Albert robot, children can now get a strong start to their education. This will have a ripple effect in the future, as education is a significant obstacle for children to overcome to escape poverty.

Rachel Hernandez
Photo: Pixabay

Crops That Are Fighting PovertyAcross the world, agriculture remains one of the primary sources of income for those living in poverty. A 2019 report by The World Bank reported that 80% of those living in extreme poverty reside in rural regions, and a large majority of these individuals rely upon agriculture for their livelihood. The World Bank also notes that developing agriculture is one of the most effective ways to alleviate poverty, reduce food insecurity and enhance the general well-being of those living in a community. Potatoes in China, cassava in sub-Saharan Africa, rice in Sierra Leone, pearl millet in India and bananas in Costa Rica are five examples of crops that are fighting poverty.

5 Crops That Are Fighting Poverty

  1. Potatoes in China: In 2019, China was the world’s number one potato-producing country. With a rural population of 45.23%, the nation greatly relies upon agriculture to provide food as well as income to its citizens. In Ulanqub, otherwise known as the “potato city” of China, potato farming is one of the primary means for farmers to rise out of poverty. Due to the fact that viruses have the potential to destroy up to 80% of potato crops, potato engineers in Ulanqub have developed seeds that are more impervious to viruses. These engineers place a sterile potato stem into a solution filled with nutrients to create “virus-free breeder seeds.” The seeds are then planted and produce potatoes of higher quality, ensuring that farmers are able to generate sufficient income and climb out of poverty.
  2. Cassava in sub-Saharan Africa: Cassava is a principal source of calories for 40% of Africans. This crop has traditionally been important during times of famine and low rainfall because it is drought-resistant, requires easily-accessible tools and is easily harvestable by one family. The organization NextGen utilizes genomic technology to isolate beneficial cassava traits that increase plant viability, root quality and yield quantity. By analyzing crop DNA and statistically predicting performance, NextGen is creating cassava crops that are fighting poverty.
  3. Rice in Sierra Leone: Agriculture accounts for 57% of Sierra Leone’s GDP, with rice reigning as the primary staple crop. However, in 2011, the nation was a net rice importer due to struggles with planting efficiency. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was developed to increase rice crop yield and decrease the labor necessary for upkeep. This method requires the use of organic fertilizers, tighter regulations for watering quantities, greater spacing between seeds to decrease plant competition and rotary hoes for weeding. As of 2014, 10,865 individuals had implemented this strategy in Sierra Leone. SRI has enabled rice to become one of the crops that is fighting poverty by increasing crop production from two to six tons per hectare.
  4. Pearl Millet in India: In India, agriculture employs 59% of the nation’s workforce, with 82% of farmers operating small farms that are highly susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. As temperatures rise to a scorching 114℉, crops that are able to survive extreme heat are becoming necessary. Wild pearl millet, a relative of domestic pearl millet, is one crop that can withstand such temperatures. Researchers in India are breeding wild pearl millet seeds with domestic pearl millet in order to enhance resistance to heat and the common “blast” disease. With breeding innovations, pearl millet is one of the crops that are fighting poverty.
  5. Bananas in Costa Rica: One out of every 10 bananas produced in 2015 hailed from Costa Rica, the globe’s third-largest banana producer. This industry generated $ 1.1 billion in 2017 and provides jobs for 100,000 Costa Ricans. However, approximately 90% of banana crops across the nation are at risk of nutrient deprivation from a pest known as nematode, which has the potential to obliterate entire plantations. An article by CropLife International reported that a sustainable pesticide has been created by plant scientists in order to mitigate poverty-inducing crop loss and provide environmentally-conscious methods for banana farmers to ward off pests.

Developing crop viability and agricultural technology is important for poverty alleviation as agriculture possesses twice the likelihood of creating financial growth than other economic sectors. Innovations in crop production that decrease the likelihood of failure from drought, disease and changing weather patterns are important for the well-being of rural communities across the globe. Potatoes, cassava, rice, pearl millet and bananas are just five examples of crops that are fighting poverty, but improvements in different facets of agriculture have the potential to enhance the livelihoods of those who provide the world’s food.

Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is notable for having a stronger democracy than the United States and being the least impoverished nation in Central America. Twenty-five percent of the country is national parks – some might say that leaving all that land unfarmed means losing productivity. The national parks also contain untouched forests, which create economic incentives to develop that land into a pasture or city. However, since it is doing better than its neighbors at economic and social development, there must be some other reason Costa Rica is successful. A large part of that answer is the amount of ecotourism in Costa Rica.

History of Ecotourism

Ecotourism in Costa Rica started in the 1960s when only 25% of the once entirely forested country remained untouched. Entrepreneurs were curious about how the country could preserve the forest in a way that earned more money than logging it. They built lodging near newly-founded parks and worked with foreign retailers such as Any Mountain to make specialized outdoor gear to handle the terrain. Entrepreneurs also encouraged the government to produce web pages that emphasize the positive environmental impacts of ecotourism.

Benefits of Ecotourism

As a result of these investments, Costa Rica attracted 3.14 million tourists in 2019. The direct and indirect benefits of these tourists are:

  1. Money: Costa Rica earned $3.4 billion in just one year— around 5% of the country’s GDP—due to visitor spending. That money can increase the number of people in the middle class and help Costa Ricans avoid the poverty that affects neighboring countries.
  2. Sustainability: If Costa Rica’s businesses decided to use the remaining 25% of the forests for lumber, there would be none left now. Ecotourism can exist as a source of income indefinitely. In the long run, that can create lasting prosperity and health for the citizens of the country.
  3. Protected Biodiversity: Places closest to the equator like Costa Rica contain the most species per unit area. Those species have the potential to cure diseases. They act as a harbor of life in the developed world where many are going extinct.
  4. Proof of Concept: Costa Rica was one of the first countries that had visitors to admire ecological, not historical, sites. People first created the term ecotourism, then, to describe the focus of the visitors. Many places in Africa such as Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Benin established national parks in an attempt to reap the same rewards as Costa Rica.

The Future of Ecotourism

Ecotourism in Costa Rica and in other parts of the world is a way to satisfy both the ecological and economical needs of people. This leads to stable and robust governments that can stand up to disturbances like natural disasters. They can also serve their constituents better by preventing vast swaths of the population from sliding into poverty.

That is not to say that it is a perfect solution. Historically, leaders have uprooted indigenous communities to make the parks for ecotourism. Other sectors like Costa Rica’s computer parts manufacturing can use it as a false front to justify unnecessary pollution. Diseases like COVID-19 can reduce traffic, leaving many without jobs. However, under normal circumstances, the positives outweigh the negatives. Countries around the world should at least consider integrating ecotourism into their economies and the lives of their citizens.

– Michael Straus
Photo: Flickr