Monteverde, Costa Rica
Rampant deforestation in the 20th century left Costa Rican farmers with infertile soil and terrible growing conditions. Recognizing the mistake of this deforestation, the government began implementing policies that encouraged conservation and the preservation of healthy ecosystems in the early 1970s. Later, during the late 80s and early 90s, Costa Rica also promoted a national system of conservation areas, integrating national parks and other protected forests with the surrounding community. As a result, Costa Rica is now known as a global leader in sustainability.
However, climate change threatens to derail the hard work done to encourage organic agriculture, create national parks, and promote ecotourism. There exists a need for grass roots organizations and companies, like Life Monteverde, which promote conservation and the preservation of natural resources and educate both locals and international tourists and students about the need for sustainable practices.
Starting with a Planeterra partnership in 2018, G Adventures will be bringing groups to Life Monteverde to learn about sustainable farming and coffee production, and to have a meal at the farm. This increased revenue for Life Monteverde will mean they can continue to grow their educational component for local schools and students.
Life Monteverde was started by three farming families in 1990, which later grew to create a union of 12 families dedicated to sustainable coffee production, agriculture and education on sustainability. With the growth of the association came the opportunity to benefit the larger community. Today, these 12 families benefit, but so do more than 15 families of permanent staff, more than 40 seasonal workers and the 12-15 neighbouring farms that are also part of Life Monteverde’s coffee production. In addition, 10 more families are involved in a homestay program for study abroad students.
Life Monteverde also has a mandate to educate both the local and international community about their work. The organization provides tours free of charge to local school groups, and subsidized tours for Costa Rican university students. They also host thousands of international school groups and visitors each year.
The majority of conventional tourist destinations displace farming culture. In the case of Monteverde, agrotourism has become an alternative to integrate the best of both economies. Life Monteverde is a local leader for this model of agrotourism. Agrotourism also facilitates commercializing specialty coffee at a fair price for Life Monteverde and 10-12 local coffee growers, which allows for a better wage and social services for seasonal and permanent staff.
The Life Monteverde farm is a mosaic of crops (coffee, organic garden, fruit trees) and protected forests. In the farmed area, they use more natural alternatives to maintain and improve soil quality and to prevent and control pests and disease. Every year, Life Monteverde produces more than 30 tons of organic fertilizer, which are applied to the coffee fields and organic garden. Life Monteverde has kept 50% of the land under protection and carries out research projects and monitors biodiversity to reduce its environmental impacts. These actions have led to the farm obtaining for four consecutive years the Ecological Blue Flag certification and for three years the Friend of the Earth certification.
The future of small-scale farmers depends not only on a fair price for their harvests, but to a great extent their exit is also tied to their education and training level. Agrotourism is another strategy to diversity and increase revenues and at the same time creates an educational process that benefits the farmer and the visitors. For this reason, Life Monteverde also offers training activities that benefit local coffee farmers, and domestic and international students.