Farms in Sarapiquí, Costa Rica will showcase the application of Analog Forestry

 5 model farms will serve as showcases for the application of the Analog Forestry methodology.

Project seeks to strengthen economic opportunities for producers and restore their forests.

The International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), together with FUNDECOR (Foundation for the Development of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range), joined forces to share and work on a single purpose: responsibility towards the environment and the promotion of economic opportunities in rural communities.

The communities are located in the geographical area of Maquenque, northern Costa Rica, specifically in the counties of San Carlos and Sarapiquí. The project contributes to the conservation, maintenance and restoration of forests in this area under the Analog forestry productive model.

Analog Forestry (AF) is an ecological restoration tool that minimizes the application of external inputs, such as agrochemicals and fossil fuels, and instead encourages the ecological functions of forests to increase resilience and productivity. AF uses natural forests as guidelines to create ecologically stable and socio-economically productive landscapes.

Our project, “Promotion of ecological restoration and improvement of livelihoods through diversified Analog Forestry production systems in the Maquenque geographical area,” is managed by the Association Costa Rica Forever and implemented by FUNDECOR and the IAFN, through funds from the First USA-CR Debt for Nature Swap.

The challenge is to demonstrate that Analog Forestry is a productive alternative for the people in the region and at the same time to collaborate with the restoration of forests through the application of our methodology and the search for markets for non-timber forest products.

Three main regional areas were chosen for the realization and implementation of Analog Forestry “showcases” in La Delia, Pueblo Nuevo and El Roble.

In La Delia with the participation of the communities of Rojomaca, Sardinal, Las Delicias, Los Ahogados, Masaya, Vuelta El Cerro and Boca del Toro.

El Roble, with the communities of Chilamate, San Ramón, La Tirimbina, La Virgen, Colonia Carvajal, El Uno, Bijagual, Magsasay and Puerto Viejo.

Finally, Pueblo Nuevo, with the participation of producers from Llano Grande, Muelle, Tres Rosales, Jormo, La Esperanza, Dos Locos, California Tico, San Gerardo, San Luis and Paraíso.

5 implementation sites will serve as model plots and will exhibit the potential for more Analog Forestry sites to other producers in the area. These farms will represent a production model, both in their design as in the products that will be generated, which will serve as an example for new producers who are interested in joining this initiative of ecological-economic development.

To begin the process, six workshops were held with trainers from IAFN and FUNDECOR, accompanied by producers interested in learning more about AF methodology.

Members of the team include forestry experts such as Pedro Zúñiga, a Forest Engineer with over 16 years of experience, Gabriel Villalta, expert in Forest Management and Restoration from the National University, an AF accredited trainer working with FUNDECOR. Celeste Lopez joined as Coordinator of the project for IAFN and was later replaced by Ginnette Cruz, Forest Engineer, who is now leading the project. We also had the support of Evelyn Chaves, Forest Engineer, a Master in Environmental Management and market specialist.

In a first stage, producers were introduced to FUNDECOR’s programas as well as information on the vision and mission of the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), including examples from other countries with Analog Forestry implementation sites.

Topics such as Ecological Succession and Ecological Functions of a forest were shared as well as information on the Fila Marucha farm, located in Londres, Quepos, whose owners are Milo Bekins, IAFN trainer and board member and his family. This model farm produces medicinal plants, cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, essential oils, among others; besides being an example of biodiversity restoration in the area.

We visited the closest, most intact forests, where the Physiognomic Formula was put into practice, to describe the architectural structure of the forest to then help define the space to design a plot, guided by the principles of Analog Forestry.

The last workshops focused on the identification of products with market potential with the objective of studying the products produced on the farms with access to markets, as well as those that have potential but are not yet available on the market.

The next step will be to select the 5 model farms that will showcase the establishment of designs and implementation of Analog Forestry.

Once these sites are selected, the producers’ network will be strengthened as technical assistance will continue to be provided by specialists on both production and market aspects,

Sarapiquí producers visit Analog Forestry farms

Field visits were held at La Célula and Fila Marucha farms

Participants shared knowledge about biodiversity, crops and analog forests

On July 3 and 4, 2019, a group of producers from Sarapiquí visited farms La Célula (located in Puriscal) and Fila Marucha (located in Londres, Quepos).

The purpose of the visit was to show an actual example of a mature analog forest and to exchange experiences and knowledge around good practices on sustainable production that are being implemented for ecological restoration, comprehensive landscape management and increased resilience.

An analog forest is an anthropogenic forest that can have different purposes, for example: to provide food security, for production or biodiversity restoration, to protect water sources, to join nearby biological

corridors, for ecotourism and others. This allows for ecological and landscape restoration, generating profound positive impacts on the environment. These forests are created with specific objectives and one of AF principles is “to be guided by the needs of the landscape”.

The visit began in Puerto Viejo, Sarapiquí to La Célula farm and then the journey continued towards Fila Marucha farm, in Londres, Quepos.

The Quirós Bravo family greeted visitors to La Célula, which bears this name by referring precisely to a cell, which although small, fulfills all the functions that an Analog Forestry model must have.

“The main objectives of our farm are: food security for my family and the adaptation of the ecosystem to climate change. Trees and plants also produce fruits for wildlife” said Geovanny Quirós.

In both places participants were able to put theory into practice and observe “in real time” what they had been learning since early February 2019 in workshops organized by FUNDECOR and IAFN.

Participants toured the arms, listened, perceived aromas, savored the essence and observed the importance of a mature analog forest.

“That day, as every other day, we were harvesting and drying non-timber forest products such as bamboo, guarana, oregano, mint, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg,” said Milo Bekins of Fila Marucha farm and an international expert in Analog Forestry.

Milo and his family are the owners of the unparalleled Fila Marucha farm, which has been highligted by the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) as an exemplary farm in sustainable forest management.

For several years and until recently, this farm has been the Analog Forest Training Center for Latin America as it is a living and exceptional example of ecological and landscape restoration as well as of livelihood, as they commercialize medicinal plants, spices and essential oils.

“The producers were happy with the tour, and with more knowledge to continue their learning process in Analog Forestry” said Mr. Bekins.

«I would like to plant trees that bear fruit, that help the environment, the soil, but that also help support my family. We have always thought of ways to develop our land and now with more observation and having a broad explanation of how to develop our farm has opened a door for me. I found interesting the visit of a specialist in markets, because usually the farmer plants crops and does not know who to sell the product to, so everything should be a complement. Sarapiquí has a high potential, we are many farmers, perhaps on a small scale, but by joining together we can achieve higher productivity” said Ericka Cedeño, producer of Chilamate, Sarapiquí, where she and her family currently have 800 pepper corn plants.

The activity had the participation and contributions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) from Sarapiquí, a key player in these processes together with the farming families.

This capacity building process is part of the Sarapiquí Resiliente program, which FUNDECOR has been developing in the area since 2013 and whose objective is to increase resilience around climate change in this county.

Results of the first Regional Forum: AGRO ALIANZAS, 2018. Sarapiquí Resiliente

  • A venue for exchanging experiences between producers.

  • 11 institutional representatives, 7 female and 15 male producers from Sarapiquí were present.

  • 50 meetings between producers and institutions took place.

The first Regional Forum: AGRO ALIANZAS, 2018- Sarapiquí Resiliente was held on November 7th 2018 in Puerto Viejo, Sarapiquí, this activity is part of the project: “Promotion of ecological restoration and livelihoods improvement through diversified Analog Forestry production systems in the geographical area Maquenque (North Zone).”

The objective of the Forum was to exchange experiences, as well as strengthen strategic and commercial alliances between producers and key institutions, inform on the progress of the project and the presentation of the selected Analog Forestry demonstration farms.

The institutions that were represented at the Forum were: the Institute for Rural Development (INDER), the National Fund for Forest Financing (FONAFIFO), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), the Environmental Bank Foundation (FUNBAM), the Sarapiquí County Union of Development Associations (UCAD), the Sarapiquí Chamber of Tourism (CATUSA), the Bank of Costa Rica (BCR), the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (ITCR), the Forest Research Institute of the National University (INISEFOR), Fundacion Mujer and the Organization of Tropical Studies (OET).

In total, 7 female and 15 male farmers involved in the project and coming from different communities from Sarapiquí met face-to-face with institutional representatives in order to exchange experiences. Some people took the opportunity to share their life stories as well as projects they have been working on and that require support.

Thanks to the differentiated methodology of this Forum, business table type, around 50 meetings were held between producers and institutions in order to seek support and training. Some of the topics addressed were: the need for information on certification and permits issues, the development of new products, technical assistance, financial services (credit, non-refundable funds, etc.), marketing and capacity building, among others.

“It is important to highlight that the project is part of the SARAPIQUÍ RESILIENTE program that seeks to strengthen capacities, link producers with each other and with the market. The project performs the thematic approach described because in most cases the producers do not have direct access to the users of their products, or to transform or market them, and this does not allow local stakeholders to know their suppliers. In such way, there is no adequate communication or collaboration link,” said León Santana, president of the Board of FUNDECOR. The organization seeks to have better informed, trained, strong and

Local efforts affect a global challenge!

Elena Porras, one of the producers from the community of Río Magdalena described herself as a “fighter” who, despite having faced difficult times, never backed down and today stands tall. With her husband Alexis Villagra and her son, they have a more diversified, resilient farm with higher family income.

“The peppercorn project lasted 5 years and because of a plague we lost our plants. Now we are visualizing the future, participating in the Analog Forestry workshops, planning to have more diversity of products,” said Elena.

This program, which began in February 2018 and will be extended until 2019, is to strengthen the capacities of Sarapiquí farming families while restoring their forests, with a focus on integrated landscape management.

As a result of the joint work of FUNDECOR and IAFN, 45 families from communities of La Delia, Chilamate, La Virgen, El Roble and Río Magdalena have benefited from trainings, exchange of experiences, field visits, technical support in markets, organizational business diagnoses and an exchange and face-to-face meetings with local institutions. Four key crops have been identified which have international demand, namely: cocoa, peppercorn, medicinal plants and timber.