SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE CATTLE RANCHING IN COSTA RICA
Costa Rica is a pioneer when it comes to forest conversation, sustainable development and climate leadership. But despite the fact that 30 per cent of the country is protected, unsustainable cattle ranching and agriculture continue to exert pressure on forests. In the national REDD+ strategy of Costa Rica, cattle ranching was identified as one of the major drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. With over 1.5 million hectares of pasture across the country, transforming this sector thus holds important mitigation potential for combating climate change.
To render farming practices more sustainable and to improve the livelihoods of farmers, UN-REDD has been supporting the Government of Costa Rica in the transition to low-carbon activities, including collaboration with the private and financial sectors to develop more sustainable cattle ranching through access to finance.
One of the cooperatives that has improved its environmental performance in the livestock sector by converting to sustainable techniques is Coope-Puriscal. It has more than 2,200 members, including Marvin Jiménez, a fourth-generation smallholder farmer and cattle rancher.
“I’ve been living in the region of Puriscal in Costa Rica since I was born, but now, we really notice the changes in the climate. The sun burns much harder,” says Jiménez. “When the cooperative organized meetings to talk about climate change, we used to have doubts about what they said. Now, we are suffering the consequences.”
A predominantly rural region in Costa Rica, Puriscal has many microenterprises and small farmers who struggle to obtain credit from traditional banks.
“Many producers do not qualify for access to the banking system,” says Geovanni Sánchez Salazar, manager of Coope-Puriscal. “For example, when a farmer wants to access credit, he will be asked for a pay slip, but smallholder farmers cannot provide this type of document. In other cases, banks ask farmers to send a project proposal, but those are difficult to do, take too much time and farmers give up. The added value of what we can bring to farmers as a cooperative is not only in the low interest rates the farmers can now obtain, but in the conditions, paperwork, accompaniment and technical assistance that we can offer them.”
One challenge for smallholders is the need to possess a land title in order to qualify for a bank loan. Obtaining a title costs about $1,400 per hectare, a sum that not many farmers can afford. UN-REDD has therefore started to bring together cooperatives, cocoa producers, supply chain businesses, traders, the forestry sector, the fruit sector and the national and international banks in the hope of developing a mechanism to help these farmers access finance for titling. This means the world to smallholders like Ibrahim, who has never been able to even taste chocolate due to the prohibitive price. “For the money I would have to spend on a bar of chocolate I can buy a bag of rice to feed a family of seven people,” he says.
With the support of UN-REDD, the cooperative is now accredited by the development banking system of Costa Rica, enabling them to access capital at lower costs. “Coope-Puriscal has given us access to finance and technical knowledge, allowing us to invest in better cattle ranching practices. Cattle ranching used to lead to deforestation, but now we practice it differently. We keep the trees and plant even more,” says Jiménez.
“Coope-Puriscal has given us access to finance and technical knowledge, allowing us to invest in better cattle ranching practices. Cattle ranching used to lead to deforestation, but now we practice it differently. We keep the trees and plant even more”Jiménez
Financing the activities of smallholder farmers in Puriscal has increased not only the environmental sustainability of their activities, but also their incomes. Slowly, young people who left for the big cities are now coming back home. “We learned that it’s not that youth don’t want to work the farms, but rather the lack of opportunities that makes them move to the cities,” says Salazar. “Now, with the credits, we see how opportunities can multiply within a family.”