Costa Rica's sustainability | Why we like to work with Costa Rican farms
The coffee seed meets Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been a coffee-growing country since the early 19th century. When the country declared independence from Spain in 1821, the municipal government gave away free coffee seeds to encourage production. After a few decades of growth, exports to England followed in 1843 and coffee became Costa Rica's sole export for half a century (1846-1890). With such a demand for these magical beans, the local economy and infrastructure grew. The first railways were built to connect the country to the Atlantic Ocean. The establishment of the Anglo-Costa Rican Bank aimed to support the coffee industry in its growth.
Status quo - in the face of the global warming crisis.
Fast forward 130 years to 2020, and the world is now facing the crisis of global warming. In 2006, Costa Rica decided to respond by aligning its national priorities with global climate action. The government developed a far-reaching climate change strategy and committed to becoming a carbon-neutral country by 2021. In the words of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias: "We are doing this in the hope that at some point we can show the world that what ultimately needs to be done can be done". For Costa Rica, a rather small country, this is a significant contribution to the issue of climate change.
Given the long history of the Costa Rican coffee industry and its influence on the country's economic growth, it was no surprise to see coffee farmers act quickly and embrace the government's goals by adopting sustainable farming and processing methods.
As part of the effort, Costa Rica has made significant progress in consolidating the world's first NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action) coffee, thanks to support for the Costa Rica Coffee Sector Competitiveness and Low Carbon Performance Project. Since the implementation of NAMA Café de Costa Rica, 22% of Costa Rican coffee is produced sustainably with the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions.
Over 8,900 producers on 25,000 hectares (22% of national production) have been trained in the use of acceptable agricultural practices in order to adapt to changing climate conditions, minimise the impact of diseases and pests, and maintain the productivity of their crop.
A project to promote agroforestry systems in coffee plantations with Fundación Banco Ambiental (FUNBAM) planted over 75,000 shade trees in over 80 coffee plantations, helping to sequester carbon dioxide, adapt to climate change and protect biodiversity.
62 Costa Rican coffee plantations (24% of the officially registered) were accompanied in the annual measurement of their GHG inventories through capacity building and technical support. After prioritising future areas of intervention, these plantations implemented technological changes and optimised their processes to reduce CO2 emissions, water and energy consumption.
To facilitate necessary investments and equipment purchases, a credit line of US$ 8 million was established in collaboration with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). It will continue to be available to the entire sector in 2020.
In total, the project has reduced over 38,000 tonnes of CO2e in coffee production and processing.
"When we started this initiative, many coffee producers had no idea of the impact their crops had on climate change and vice versa, and even less of what they could do about it. The activities we have carried out through the NAMA Café have meant that almost one fifth of national production is now low-carbon, sustainable and better adapted to climate change. Over the next five years, we hope to involve the rest of the sector through extension staff and technical advisors, as well as the producers and coffee plantations that have participated in the initiative so far," said Agriculture Minister Renato Alvarado.
Costa Rica continues to impress with its progress towards carbon neutrality, with the coffee industry demonstrating to the rest of the world how much can be achieved in a relatively short time when everyone works together.