One of the main economic activities in Costa Rica is coffee farming. Naturalba and APOYA have been working since 2013 to address the challenge of converting conventional farming parcels to sustainable, extensive agriculture. The vision behind this is that environmental and social sustainability could be achieved via applying agroforestry and focusing on providing decent, local employment opportunities. As 70% of the Costa-Rican coffee parcels are smaller than ten hectares, APOYA’s and Naturalba’s aim is to work towards a more sustainable agriculture through the connection of small-scale farmers. APOYA promotes the diversification of farms to ensure economic resilience to its member producers as well as environmental resilience. The strategic alliance with the commercial enterprise, “Grupo Naturalba SA” allows for a socially just and sustainable commercialization of the harvest and products of the agroforest systems.
An agroforest system mimics a forest via the plantation of, for example, cacao and banana trees among other plants. This allows for a higher environmental compatibility compared to monoculture cultivations. Additionally, these agroforest systems provide important side effects such as the protection of coffee plants against heavy rainfalls, and storms. In the dry season the agroforest systems provide the shade needed to protect the coffee plants from heat shocks and excessive exposure to the sun.
It is challenging to convince local farmers, who have produced conventionally for decades, to start the labor intensive organic coffee production. Therefore, Naturalba and APOYA established a model organic plantation close to their small factory. So far, they have succeeded in convincing 69 local farmers to join APOYA. Naturalba’s and APOYA’s greatest challenge is climate change with consequences such as rising temperatures, less predictable weather and the increasingly frequent extreme weather events. In order to cope with these challenges, they collaborate with the research center CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza), which is also located in Turrialba. Within the framework of the project CASCADA, they recently finished a series of courses for their producers to instruct them about measures to prepare their plantations for the changing environmental conditions.
Furthermore, market access to a new cooperative company is hard to overcome. At OneLife we engage, among other sectors, in sustainable agriculture and we are currently searching for partners for Naturalba who are interested in sustaining an ecofriendly agriculture that supports social development.
Meet the ambitious local producers
Grandpa Enrique’s Farm was given to Emilce by her father, a visionary man who broke local traditions through helping his daughters by inheriting the family farm in a world where usually only sons inherit land. Emilce is a dynamic woman who has worked hard to maintain her father’s farm with the hope to give the land to her daughters. In a particularly male-dominated society, especially among farmers, Emilce wants to give women an opportunity to be independent. This small farm of 6.5 hectares produces coffee, cacao, passion fruit and bananas and has held the Organic Certification since 2007. Within this context, Emilce has contributed to local development through sustainable agriculture and has worked hard to take care of the land so that one day her grandchildren can continue to grow organic coffee. As an active member of the Organic and Sustainable Producers Association of Turrialba her dedication, motivation and leadership make her an inspiration and role model to several small producers in the region of Turrialba.
The farm “La Trinidad” is a family business that has been transmitted from many generations. The name of the farm originates from the name of the grandfather Trinidad. Today, the establishment is led by 3 brothers coming from a family of 12 children. Reynaldo, one of the three brothers, is the most devoted to organic production. The organic coffee cultivated on this farm has been certified for more than a decade. They also produce sugarcane, cocoa and oranges. Furthermore, the farm holds a coffee nursery so that they can sell their plants to other coffee growers. All this allowed them to replant disease-free coffee after the tragic rust episode in 2014.
The “La Laguna Farm”, with almost 2 ha, was handed over to Jaime from his father. To diversify his farm, Jaime mixes cacao, coffee and banana trees. For Jaime it is fundamental to produce healthy food, both for the environment and for the health of people. This led Jaimie to begin the organic certification process in 1997 and he became one of the first certified organic coffee farmers in Costa Rica. He implements practices such as the use of organic fertilizers, bio-enzymes and compost in order to improve the farm’s productivity. Currently Jaime is the head of the Organic and Sustainable Producers Association of Turrialba (APOYA)’s Internal audit and oversees the financial management and teaching of other coffee producers. Dedicated to organic agriculture he also offers workshops and trainings to groups of students.
More information at: www.naturalba.net