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Costa Rica’s Return to Forest in the Midst of Latin America’s Deforestation

Costa Rica’s Return to Forest in the Midst of Latin America’s Deforestation

Original article by Wendy Anders, May 3, 2017, The Costa Rica Star

Changes in forest cover
Changes in forest cover. Image by Rodrigo Ruiz

While Latin America as a whole has experienced marked deforestation, Costa Rica has proved the notable exception, and has sustained and even increased its forest cover, said a climate investigation published in the University of Costa Rica’s weekly Semanario Universidad.

What has led to Costa Rica’s success? The United Nations Organization for Agriculture (FAO) says state support and incentives to preserve forests have played a key role.

Costa Rica’s environmental services payment program (PSA, its initials in Spanish) is one of the most successful environmental public policies in the country’s history, and has been used as a model for other countries.

The country went from having 75 percent forest cover in 1940 to an all time low of 21 percent in 1987, as shown in the infographic included above by Revista Vacío.

Today, more than half of the country is forested and, about 50 percent of forested lands are classified as protected.

The environmental service payment program was formalized in 1997, having morphed out of some similar previous programs. Between 1996 and 2015, investments in forest-related PSA projects in Costa Rica reached US$318 million, according to the FAO.

The program pays for four types of “environmental services” on forested lands. These include carbon capture; water protection for rural, urban or hydroelectric use; protection of biodiversity; and natural scenic beauty or value for tourism and/or scientific purposes. In essence, the program is simple: if you keep the forest on your property, Costa Rica will pay you.

The report in Semanario Universidad found that the environmental service payment program tends to be more effective in areas far from national parks. This appears to be related to the fact that owners of lands near national parks can often find more lucrative uses for their land due to the presence of tourism, and so conserving forest for government payments is not as attractive as in more remote areas.

An important finding for the FAO was that while other Latin American countries cleared forests to make room for agricultural production, Costa Rica was able to increase conservation and sustainable management of forests without jeopardizing their food security. In fact, the FAO found that 70 percent of deforestation in Latin America between 2000 and 2010 occurred to make way for commercial agriculture.

Costa Rica has increased its food security since the 1990s by increasing agricultural productivity and importing food from countries with lower production costs, according to the recent FAO report.

While there continue to be poor, landless and vulnerable rural families suffering from food insecurity, Costa Rica appears to be heading the right way and has found a way to preserve its forest cover while maintaining good levels of food security, said the report.


Why this Texas doctor says Costa Rica’s health care system beats the US

Why this Texas doctor says Costa Rica’s health care system beats the US

The article originally appeared on International Living and recently published by Dr. John Michael Arthur on CNBC, January 13, 2017.


CIMA Hospital
CIMA Hospital

I was sitting on our cantilevered terrace, listening to birdsong and the river flowing below me. I pondered the 11,000-foot-tall Volcano Irazú in the distance. From the top of the tallest volcano in the country, it’s possible to see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on a clear day.

Suddenly there came a rapid-fire knock at the door. I knew something was different this morning—Costa Ricans rarely get worked up.

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New Bridge Provides Better Access to Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio Park

New Bridge Provides Better Access to Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio Park

Originally published in the Costa Rica Star by Wendy Anders, Dec. 21, 2016

Yesterday, transportation authorities inaugurated a new bridge at the entrance to the Central Pacific port town of Quepos, the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park.

New Bridge in Quepos
New Bridge in Quepos

The cement structure replaces a bailey bridge that spanned the Boca Vieja estuary, said the National Highway Council (Conavi, in Spanish) in a press statement.

Carlos Villalta, Minister of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), said at the inauguration the infrastructure cost ¢1.560 million (about US$286,000).

The two-lane bridge provides safer access to and from Quepos for motorized vehicles and also pedestrians, with sidewalks in both directions, said Vice President of the Republic Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría.

Costa Rica Celebrates 68 Years Without an Army

Costa Rica Celebrates 68 Years Without an Army

Originally published by Wendy Anders, December, 1, 2016, The Costa Rica Star

“Blessed is the Costa Rican mother who knows that her son at birth will never be a soldier,” said the well-known Japanese politician and philanthropist Ryoichi Sasakawa in one of his visits to Costa Rica, as reported in Costa Rica’s digital news source today on the anniversary of Costa Rica’s abolition of its army on December 1, 1948.

Costa Rica. No army since 1948.
Costa Rica. No army since 1948.

Costa Rica made one of the most important decisions in its history 68 years ago by abolishing the army.

In a symbolic act, with a blow to the Bellavista Barracks, carried out by the then President of the Founding Governing Board of the Second Republic, José Figueres Ferrer, the Costa Rican army was officially dissolved, reported

A series of events during that time, including the Civil War of 1948, and the ensuing formation of a Governing Board, which ruled for 18 months, allowed for important reforms in the country such as the creation of universal health care and education.

At the end of the Civil War and upon assuming power, the Founding Governing Board met with an extremely weakened army, and they jointly decided to eliminate it in order to invest the resources in improving the social and economic situation of the country, said

The day the abolition of the Army was announced, the keys to the military barracks were handed over to the newly founded University of Costa Rica so they could establish the National Museum as a center for anthropological studies.

On October 31, 1949, the National Constituent Assembly incorporated the abolition of the army into Article 12 of the Political Constitution, thereby ensuring to the permanent elimination of the Costa Rican army, reported

This year, the 68th anniversary of this momentous event for Costa Rica was celebrated with a symbolic act in the Plaza de la Democracia in downtown San José.


Why is Costa Rica the happiest place on Earth?

Why is Costa Rica the happiest place on Earth?

Costa Rica is the happiest country on Earth according to the Happy Planet Index. There is more to it than just sunshine and beaches. Have a look at this short video to find out more:


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