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Organic agriculture in Costa Rica: The case of cacao and banana production in Talamanca

Octavio Damiani

Draft report prepared for the Office of Evaluation and Studies of the International Fund for Agricultural Development Rome, October 2001

I. II.




Introduction The importance of organic production in Costa Rica and the case of the Talamanca Small Farmers’ Association A. Organic agricultural production in Costa Rica B. The organic production of cacao and banana in Talamanca Effects of the organic model of production on small farmers and the environment in Talamanca A. Effects on farmers’ income and quality of life B. Effects on the natural environment The factors explaining the success of cacao and banana producers A. The influence of economic and agricultural policies B. The role of policies towards organic agriculture C. The incorporation of organic agriculture in university and training Programs D. The views and policies of agricultural research, extension, and credit agencies E. The role of Non-Governmental Organizations F. The role of APPTA Conclusions and potential lessons A. Conclusions B. Potential lessons




1. This report focuses on the recent growth of organic agricultural production in Costa Rica, one of the countries that has advanced most in Latin America in developing institutions to deal with organic agriculture. An Organic Agriculture National Program within the Ministry of Agriculture was established in 1994, an Organic Agriculture Law was passed by the Congress in 1996, and several other laws have been approved since the mid-1990s. In addition, Costa Rica has also been successful in implementing policies to preserve its diverse ecosystems, and it has been making efforts to promote environmentally-friendly economic activities among small farmers, such as ecotourism and organic agriculture. These measures have contributed to create a good international image of the country that was favorable for the access of Costa Rican organic products to foreign markets. 2. The study provides an overview of the development of organic agriculture in Costa Rica and analyzes in detail the case of the Talamanca Small Farmers’ Association (APPTA), a well-known success story in Costa Rica for becoming the largest association of organic small producers in the country and one of the largest ones in Central America. APPTA includes 1,500 small farmers, most of them Bribri and Cabécar indigenous people who live and produce in an indigenous reservation in the Talamanca county (Province of Limón) in the southeast of the country (see map 1). These farmers had grown cacao since the 1940s, when a disease (Moniliasis) caused by Moniliophtora roreri sp. decimated the crops in the late 1970s, leaving farmers without their only source of cash income. As a result, farmers abandoned their cacao plantations and many slashed and burned the areas with cacao to grow subsistence crops (corn, beans, and rice) or guinea. By the early 1990s, they lived basically from subsistence crops and poultry, selling a very low proportion of their production in the market. 3. APPTA was successful in promoting a revival of the cacao production. With the help of ANAI, a Non-Governmental Organization of US origin, APPTA established contacts with buyers of organic cacao in the United States, and in the early 1990s was able to certify a significant area of cacao and to start exporting to the US. After this initial success, APPTA carried out efforts to sell other products (especially banana) that were grown by its members under the rainforest and often mixed with cacao, but which were used for the consumption of the family. As a result of these efforts, APPTA obtained the organic certification for its members’ production of banana, and it started selling it to foreign firms based in Costa Rica that used banana to produce baby food (organic puree of banana) and export it Europe and the United States. By 2000, more than 1,000 members of APPTA had obtained the certification of organic producers in more than 2,000 hectares of cacao and banana. APPTA was exporting directly cacao to the United States and Europe, and was selling organic banana for the production of baby food. In addition, it had negotiated with a supermarket chain in the Costa Rican capital city (San José) to sell organic fruits and vegetables and had started a program to promote them which was incorporating an increasing number of its members. Finally, APPTA had initiated efforts with government agencies to produce organic banana to be sold fresh in the international market. 4. Organic production in Talamanca had significant positive effects on farmers’ incomes and quality of life. This is important because Talamanca has been one of the poorest regions in Costa Rica, showing the highest illiteracy rates and lowest incomes in the country. Farmers had lost access even to the limited domestic market of cacao because middlemen had stopped purchasing cacao from most communities in Talamanca due to their low production levels. As a result of the emergence and growth of organic production, farmers were able to start selling cacao again, and they obtained prices significantly higher than in the conventional market. In addition, while the


price that the banana processing industry paid to APPTA’s producers for their organic product was low compared to the international market price of the fresh organic banana. In addition. in an improved form of the traditional systems of production. This is important because Talamanca is one of the ecologically richest and most diverse regions in Costa Rica. Map 1. farmers were able to obtain a constant source of income by selling every two or three weeks all-year-round. According to several 3 . but under the shade of rainforest trees and combined with other products like fruits and tubers. Organic cacao and banana were environmentally-friendly because they were not grown as a monoculture. the organic models of production had positive effects on the environment. Talamanca county in Costa Rica 5.

and training. government agencies. these organic systems of production characteristic of Talamanca were also associated with the conservation of wildlife. the second section describes organic agricultural production in Costa Rica and the case of the Talamanca Small Farmers’ Association. and the role of government institutions. These initiatives included small cacao producers in the Atlantic Region (Talamanca. II. I visited producers of organic crops in the counties of Talamanca. Interestingly. During that time. it originated not as a result of a specific program or project of government agencies or NGOs. I was joined in my visit to the Talamanca region by Michelle Deugd of the Free University of Amsterdam’s Center of Rural Development Studies located in San José. and NGOs. The main questions addressed in the paper are the following: a) What were the positive and negative effects of organic production on small farmers’ production and incomes? b) What were the main constraints that small farmers faced when they started to grow and sell the organic crops? c) What were the main interventions that government agencies and NGOs implemented to help small farmers successfully cultivate organic crops? 7. The findings presented here are based on field work which I carried out in Costa Rica between August 14 and 28. and the last section offers conclusions and some preliminary lessons for project design. the way in which they solved them. and Cartago with government officials. including macroeconomic and agricultural policies. Alajuela. 8. extension. and NGOs. but as a result of the initiative of farmer associations and individual farmers in different crops and regions in of the country in response to critical situations that they faced related with the attack of pests and diseases or with the excessive use of pesticides. In addition. the main problems that small producers faced when growing organic crops. where most of the fresh organic vegetables are produced.studies carried out by specialists. the third section analyzes the forces that led to the emergence of organic products in Costa Rica and the influence of different factors. While these experiences were unrelated 4 . A. APPTA. and vegetable producers in the central region (Province of Alajuela) who were facing high costs and health problems caused by chemical inputs. and the influence of NGOs. who focused on microeconomic analysis of organic production and elaborated a paper that provided valuable information for this study. Province of Limón) whose crops had been decimated by a diease. The paper discusses the factors that led to the success of organic production in Talamanca. The fourth section analyzes the key interventions that led to the successful production of organic banana and cacao in Talamanca. analyzing the role of laws. the role of government and private institutions involved in agricultural research. The cultivation of organic crops in Costa Rica started in the mid-1980s. regulations. and Alajuela. small coffee producers in the central and northern regions (Provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste) who were experiencing financial problems due to the high costs of the intensive use of pesticides. which concentrates the production of organic banana and cacao. and agencies dealing with organic agriculture. researchers and professors at the University of Costa Rica. 2001. and professionals at international. After this introduction. The importance of organic production in Costa Rica and the case of the Talamanca Small Farmers’ Association Organic agricultural production in Costa Rica 9. 6. I carried out interviews in San José. private agencies. The report is organized as follows.

Other important certified crops were coffee (860 hectares). The project sponsored by JICA included Japanese researchers and volunteer professionals. leading to an increasing interest among university researchers and NGOs. the estimated total area with organic crops in Costa Rica was about 7. and encouraging other vegetable producers (both small farmers and firms) to shift to organic production. a dynamic and diverse “organic movement” emerged in the late 1980s.650 The areas of organic crops have been estimated by IICA (2001) 5 . which carried out research on vegetable production technologies. The INA. was also interested in incorporating new topics to its agricultural training programs.300 hectares (64% of the certified organic areas). and some researchers were interested in developing organic inputs as an alternative to chemical ones. a government agency created in 1960 to provide training to small farmers and workers in all economic activities. The University of Costa Rica had a research station (the Fabio Baudrit Experimental Station) located in Alajuela. These movement included NGOs and individuals who were mostly urban professionals who worked at universities and NGOs and were concerned with the negative impacts on the natural environment of conventional agriculture and with the possible negative effects of chemical residues on the health of consumers.200 N/A 26. Simultaneously. Table 1. and their work contributed to the further adoption of organic agriculture by other producers. while the rest was under transition and might obtain—at least part of it—its formal certification in the next one to three years. 10. Although this “organic movement” did not influence the emergence of organic agriculture in Costa Rica.000 2. 12. roots.1 Organic vegetables and crops that had not yet been certified (basic grains. it played a key role in the development of an institutional and legal framework for organic agriculture since the mid-1990s. their members carried out useful studies on the situation of organic agriculture in Costa Rica.394 106. and in some crops—notably in cacao and coffee—the use of natural forests in combination with some of the crops. they had in common the experimentation of farmers with organic fertilizers and pesticides. and it analyzed and eventually promoted the use of organic fertilizers (“bocashi”) in substitution of chemical fertilizers among vegetable producers in the central region. and spices) were sold mainly for the domestic market. and vegetables (43 hectares). 11. INA) also played a very important role in the emergence of organic agriculture.200 49. About half of this area had obtained the formal organic certification. blackberries (730 hectares). By early 2001.265 679 860 550 730 43 Total area (Ha) 50.000 hectares) (see table 1). Banana and cacao were the most important certified crops. a research project funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the late 1980s and implemented with the University of Costa Rica and the National Training Institute (Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje. while the certified crops were produced for export.000 hectares. Estimated areas of organic crops in Costa Rica Crops Banana 1/ Cacao 1/ Banana Coffee Orange Blackberry Vegetables 1 Organic areas (Ha) 2. with close to 2.000 25.with each other. about 1. Its had relevant results. Finally.6% of the country’s cultivated area (449.

The main production systems are cacao + forest. UE USA USA.6 degrees Celsius). UE 1/ In quintals (one quintal = one hundred pounds) Source: Based on information from IICA (2001) 13. banana + forest.973 Fuente: IICA (2001) and Agricultural Sector Planning Executive Secretariat 1/ It includes the total certified areas of APPTA in Talamanca. Most of the banana production was sold processed as baby food to the US and Europe.900 Spices 2/ 30 N/A Mango 7 9.000 Pineapple 33 9. In contrast. cassava.400 mm) and slopes of between 13% and 60%. The highlands account for about 82% of the total area and 20% of the population. and spices Table 2.550 Cashew 182 N/A Sugarcane 128 46. slopes of less than 13%. peppermint lemon grass. though soils are usually characterized by the high risk of flood. All of the production of organic cacao and blackberries and most of the coffee were exported to Europe and the United States. Costa Rican exports of organic products (in tons per year) Crops Coffee 1/ Banana Blackberries Orange Spices Sugarcane Cacao Pineapple Medicinal plants Volume 11. The organic production of cacao and banana in Talamanca 14. This 6 .136 1.000 mm of rainfall and a temperature of 25. and it includes lands between 40 and 1. it also includes cashew. while a small fraction was sold fresh in a supermarket chain in the capital city (San José).398 35. Organic banana and cacao were produced in the Talamanca county (Province of Limón). with low fertility and high risk of erosion.020 20. producers of organic cacao and banana are located in the Talamanca county that is part of the Province of Limón in the southeastern part of Costa Rica.102 448. In the “total area” column. B. As it was mentioned above. and corn. the valley has lower rains. with one third of the area having slopes of over 57% and more than half with slopes over 29%. while the valley account for 18% of the area and 80% of the population.400 964 6.4 630 300 264 N/A Market USA UE USA UE USA UE USA. and cacao + banana + fruits + forest 2/ It includes vanila. which comprise several production systems in which cacao and banana are grown under the rainforest and combined with other species. The highlands are characterized by higher rains (up to 6.Beans 1.809 TOTAL 7. cardamom. and moderately fertile soils. and cacao + banana + forest. while organic vegetables concentrated in the Province of Alajuela and organic coffee was grown mainly in the Provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste. cinnamon.500 meters over sea level in two main well-defined areas: the highlands and the valley. blackberries. This area has substantial constraints for agriculture. and wild marjoram 3/ It includes mainly palm. ginger. Talamanca is characterized by a tropical rainy climate (in average 4. curcuma. guinea.270 Other crops 3/ 197 53.

the Cahuita National Park. which is cultivated under shade rainforest trees but in a somewhat ‘purer’ form (i. which resulted in a population density of 10 persons per km2. and tubers. 19. the reservation had a total area of 66. and removing old leaves. 6162. timber trees. which is intended to general resistance of the plants. Most farmers put tapes around the stems in order to keep track of the maturation process. They are both part of La Amistad National Park and of the Talamanca-Caribe Biological Corridor. and fruits being the most important crops. and they place sticks under the stems to prevent the plant from collapsing. cacao. with basic grains. APPTA was created in 1987 with the assistance of ANAI. No other organic inputs are normally used. cedar (Cedrela odorata). the Indigenous Reservation of Talamanca Bribri and the Indigenous Reservation of Talamanca Cabécar. farmers remove numerous slips or shoots around the plant. and the Hitoy Cerere Biological Reservation. such as weeding. most farmers in Talamanca grew it as a part of a production system that included shade trees and rainforest. While many turned to slash and burn agriculture. 16. This production system was important because it required relatively little work. mixed with shade trees and rainforest.F. and most of the production tasks are done with family labour. and banana.729 hectares respectively. As it will be explained in more detail in section IV.690 hectares and 22. 15. the government divided the area into two different reservations. citrus (Citrus sp). the production system has numerous variations. with areas of 43. promoting reforestation and the introduction of new species of trees in harmony with the preexisting forests. and laurel (Cordia alliodora). mixed with fruits. 2 Both reservations altogether account for 23% of the area and 45% of the population of the Talamanca county. who grew cacao as a specialized crop.500 inhabitants. Nowadays. Some of them—especially in the lowlands—also cultivate guinea as a single crop. corn. they usually cultivate an area of basic grains (rice. Most farmers have about 1 hectare with cacao as a main crop. Most of the organic producers are smallholder farmers who usually grow a mix of crops cultivated under the rainforest. and about 1 hectare with more or less pure banana. including perennial crops like cacao and banana. Few farmers place plastic bags around the bunches to protect the fruit.area has been more intensively used for agriculture. the attack of Moniliophtora roreri sp and low world market prices led farmers to abandon their crops. selecting and leaving two strong and well distributed ones for the next cycle.. Some farmers apply a bacterial composition called EM. Cacao used to be their most important cash crop between the 1940s and the late 1970s. 17. and farmers still harvested and sold some cacao at the end of each year (between October and December).e. Most of the producers of organic cacao and banana live in an indigenous reservation created in 1977 by the Indigenous Law No. less mixed with other crops) than cacao. 3 18. In contrast to farmers in other regions. its cost was low. In addition.419 hectares (664.2 km2) and a population of 6. The cultivation of banana is based on manual activities. and beans) in a slash and burn system. clearing the soil around the plant. In the late 1970s. which also include the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refugee.. usually combined with trees like avocado (Persea sp). others maintained the cacao plantations. In 1982. In most cases. a NGO of US origin that had been working since the mid-1980s with indigenous communities. guinea. At that time. fruits. ANAI encouraged the creation of APPTA with the idea of 2 3 Borge and Castillo (1997) See Deugd (2001) 7 . the system includes an old and tall (about 7 meters) variety (Grand Michelle). When banana is grown.

4 Because cacao is harvested in two seasonal peaks. III. 22. Later on.0 2. when their cacao plantations were decimated by a disease that made them abandon the crop. APPTA was exporting annually 210 tons of organic cacao. and beans).40 per kilogram. Talamanca Products Organic cacao Organic banana Forest products Guinea Corn Beans Rice Poultry TOTAL Source: APPTA 4 Cash income (in %) 36. organic banana was being paid at USD 0. In the last harvest (obtained in late 2000).promoting the collective marketing of products and of attracting international donors that supported indigenous communities in developing countries. According to a study carried out by APPTA. Table 3.0 0. APPTA negotiated successfully with firms in Costa Rica to sell organic banana. both crops have also contributed greatly to generating a more stable income throughout the year.4 37.4 2.2 100.081 per kilogram.0 0. Organic production had substantial positive effects on farmers’ incomes and quality of life. Sources of family income among APPTA producers from the community of Katsi.2 15.3 20. Effects of the organic model of production on small farmers and the environment in Talamanca Effects on farmers’ income and quality of life 21. while the price paid for the conventional cacao by middlemen in the region was in average USD 0. This high price difference was representative of what happened since APPTA started exporting organic cacao. out of which 160 tons (76%) were sent to the US and 50 tons (24%) to Europe. APPTA had paid an average of close to USD 1 per kilogram of organic cacao to its members. organic cacao and banana represented 61.0 Total income (in %) 11.0 The average used here corresponds to the data obtained from the sample of APPTA members used by Deugd (2001) 8 . As it was mentioned earlier.2% coming from products from the forests that are part of the organic cacao and banana production systems.8% of the income (see table 3).3 4. timber from the rainforest. The sales of organic cacao and banana allowed farmers to have a new and substantial source of cash income.5 25.8 7. APPTA made contacts through ANAI with US buyers of organic cacao. the revenues from organic cacao and banana represented 31. and it was selling 1.0 0. most of these farmers in the late 1980s obtained their income from subsistence crops (rice. with an additional 37. Thus. These contacts led to the certification of cacao by a US certification agency (OCIA) and made possible to export cacao to the US. By 2000. small farmers in Talamanca had lost their only source of cash income in the late 1970s. which the firm used to make puree of banana that was then exported to the US and Europe. corn. Meanwhile.0 36. and fishing and hunting.7% of the total farmers’ income. for an average production of 12 tons per farmer. and banana is harvested every two or three weeks all year round.3 0. If only cash incomes were considered. After an initial emphasis in working on projects funded by foreign donors that involved the conservation of rainforests.3 1.2 100.300 tons of organic banana to Gerber. A. 20.

6 In the case of Talamanca. Although the economic performance of this last system was slightly negative if family labour costs were taken into account. and fertilizers. fruits. it is important to consider that small farmers themselves often do not consider family labour as a cost. mixed with rainforest and fruits generated USD 5. The effects of the production systems associated to organic production in Talamanca are very important because—as it was mentioned earlier—the region has one of the richest biodiversities in Costa Rica and largest areas of forests in Central America. and close to 1. fungicides. the lowlands are occupied by important areas of banana grown by transnational corporations. which use a technological package characterized by the intensive use of pesticides. the forest occupied 33% of the land. banana 5%.27/day). Effects on the natural environment 25. At the same time that the government has established reservations and protected areas. with an income for family labor of USD 14.6/day compared to USD 7. there has been a significant increase in the area with guinea grown as single crop with conventional technologies. Guinea and cacao have been traditionally the main cash crops. A separate evaluation of a production system that included banana mixed with other fruits and trees showed an even better performance. pág. The production system that included cacao as a main crop. The use of chemical inputs is high not only in Talamanca.23. most farmers in the highlands abandoned the crop and turned into subsistence crops. 9 7 Tsochok et al (1992). especially for households whose members do not have access to other job opportunities.300 existing in Costa Rica. more than 4.5 More than 1. many farmers—especially in the lowlands—slashed down the cacao crops and started to grow guinea instead.50/day. which represent more than 90% of Costa Rican assets. Talamanca has been substantially transformed by the expansion of agriculture. Several cases of cancer whose origin is usually related to the use of synthetic pesticides are also high among the Costa Rican population.000 species of inferior plants. cacao 12%. one third of them affecting minors. A high 5 6 See PNAO (1999). basic grains 7%. but in Costa Rica as a whole. were incorporated into the costs.000 ferns of the 1. finding that organic cacao and banana had made a significant contribution to their incomes. The results were satisfactory even if the family labour costs. banana. Meanwhile. 9 See PNAO (1999). The net income without considering family labour costs was USD 264 per hectare per year.7 26. guinea 18%. and trees generated a family income 60% higher than what the family members would have obtained for similar work in the area (USD 11. 24. pág. Several authors have estimated that Talamanca has more than 10. which were not paid. the organic production systems that farmers applied in Talamanca prevented the expansion of crops which might have used chemical inputs very intensively. while there is no specific information on the effects of organic agriculture on health.000 species of superior plants.9/day. and sugarcane 1%.400 cases of intoxication caused by pesticides were reported in 1998. Finally. The production system that included cacao. By 1992. After cacao was affected by Moniliasis. In addition. Recent studies have shown that Costa Rica has one of the highest levels of pesticide consumption in the world (about 4 kg per person annually). A study by Deugd (2001) evaluated the microeconomic performance of the production systems predominant among members of APPTA. an important supplement to the family income.8 The pressures for further expansion of areas under agriculture have been significant because of the high population density that characterizes Talamanca. B. cited by Borge and Castillo (1997) 8 Proyecto de Ecología Cult ural de Talamanca (1994) 9 .

27. Reistma et al (1999) also found no significant differences between the number of species of birds in the shaded cacao fields of Talamanca (131 species) and in the natural forest (130 species). According to soil data from the research area (Umaña. Guinea has usually been cultivated as a single crop in areas previously occupied by rainforest and involves a substantial use of chemical inputs. The number of animal species in the natural forests was 51. the average level of potassium was considered just within the normal range. 2001). Finally. Some studies found that although the agro-forestry systems characteristics of farmers in Talamanca were not as ecologically diverse as the natural forests. Comparing nutrient output through crop harvest and nutrient input through material pruned from trees. it has also been argued that the crops that are sold in the market—especially banana—may involve a net loss of nutrients when the high loss of biomass is not compensated by the incorporation of nutrients. while it was 25 in shaded cacao and 9 in shaded banana. This would require the incorporation of some organic fertilizers to the management practices. While most authors have found positive effects on the natural environment. government agencies—the National Production Council (CNP) and the Ministry of Agriculture’s extension services—have recently been providing technical assistance and subsidies to investments in the cultivation of guinea in Talamanca. 24-25 10 . pp.9 Analyzing the production systems of APPTA’s farmers in Talamanca. as a part of a government program to promote non-traditional crops. phosphorus and magnesium was more or less compensated. No substantial differences were found in the number of mammals in the three systems. 2001). Several authors who have studied the production systems dominant among APPTA’s farmers have found that they had positive effects on the natural environment compared with other production systems. the shaded cacao fields had about 35 species. with a loss of about 47 kg per year. These banana crops are monoculture systems characterized by a very high use of pesticides and other chemical inputs. In addition. 28. while the shaded banana fields had 14 species and the single banana or guinea had none. In addition. Deugd (2001) concluded that the extraction of n itrogen. so the annual potassium losses may have a negative effect on the sustainability of the organic banana system in the long run. Talamanca has concentrated an important proportion of the banana plantations grown in Costa Rica by transnational corporations. or were endangered according to classifications of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). A large number of these species (44 in the natural forest and 34 in shaded cacao) were protected under the CITES treaty for the trade of endangered species. the potassium balance was negative. 9 See Parish et al (1999).proportion of the popula tion is indigenous and shows some of the highest levels of poverty in the Costa Rica. 29. However. Parrish et al (1999) concluded that the management of shaded cacao led to a lower incidence of pests and diseases and a higher natural reproduction as a direct result of the higher ecological diversity. and they have represented one of the most important dangers to the conservation of the ecological diversity in Talamanca. they were much more diverse than fields with single crops. Due to the thick ground cover that characterizes the organic production systems—which combine cacao and banana with fruits and tubers under the rainforest—the degree of erosion and leaching are considered minimal compared to the monoculture production systems. Guiracocha (2000) found that while the natural forests in Talamanca had 85 species of trees and palms. all product residues are used for home consumption and the residues of the cacao are reintegrated into the system (Deugd.

and the more difficult access to credit by small farmers. Until the late 1980s. and vehicles.1% annually in the same period. the liberalization of interest rates. The government implemented economic and agricultural policies that even though were not targeted to organic production. In 1995. Financial sector reform implied the reduction of subsidies to credit. As a result of these policies. As a part of the trade reform policies. The government also implemented trade and agricultural policy reforms during the 1990s that reduced dramatically the support to traditional crops (mainly corn and beans) and promoted their substitution for non-traditional crops. A. the area with basic grains fell substantially. Non-traditional agricultural exports increased from 23. the government intervened actively in the market of basic grains. and the authorization to intermediary financial institutions to set up passive and active interest rates. These policies partly explain a favorable evolution of the Costa Rican economy during the 1990s.8% between 1991 and 1999.98 billion to USD 1. and the implementation of fiscal incentives to exports. while agricultural exports almost d oubled (from USD 0. Tariffs for basic grains were reduced and other trade barriers were lifted. the liberalization of imports of machinery.36 billion to USD 6. stored them in its own storage facilities. 33.5% of the agricultural exports in 1991 to 39. The National Production Council (Consejo Nacional de Producción.88 billion) in the same period. equipment. providing subsidies to investments of farmer associations and to credit for farmers’ establishment of new plantations. including the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. Reforms in trade policies included the incorporation of Costa Rica to the World Trade Organization. 31. The CNP changed its mission towards the promotion of non-traditional crops and agro-processing and became in charge of the administration of government subsidies to projects involving nontraditional crops. they had some positive effects on it. while setting prices to consumers and producers. the government reduced dramatically its role in the domestic marketing of basic grains. In addition.58 billion). 11 . and at the same time many small farmer assocaitions all over Costa Rica initiated a wide variety of nontraditional activities. the approval of a Free Trade Agreement with Mexico. CNP) purchased farmers’ basic grains. 32.IV.8% in 1999. The average annual growth rate of the GDP reached 5. while the growth of the Agricultural Gross Product reached 4. as a part of a food policy that aimed at ensuring the domestic supply at reasonable prices. reducing the role of the Central Bank. Total exports grew almost five times between 1991 and 1999 (from USD 1. organic crops. lifting price controls and transferring storage facilities to farmer associations. In addition. These policies included structural reforms. The main impacts of these reforms in the agricultural sector were the contraction of the formal financial sector and credit to the agricultural sector. a substantial number of new non-governmental financial institutions emerged. it implemented programs to promote the adoption of non-traditional crops. the sharp increase in interest rates. the government used to set up high tariffs for imported grains. At the same time. a Law for the Modernization of Financial Institutions was approved. especially in the areas of the financial sector and international and domestic trade policies. The factors explaining the success of cacao and banana producers The influence of economic and agricultural policies 30. and agrotourism. and imported them in case that the domestic production did not satisfy the domestic demand.

12 (iv) It created the National Ecological Agriculture Commission (NEAC) as an organization assisting the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in matters related to organic agriculture. such as the registration of producers of organic inputs. The role of policies towards organic agriculture 34. and the use of poultry manure. and it made definitions on the minimum time-period (three years) of the transition from conventional to organic agriculture. The Organic Agriculture Decree. approved in February 1997. and promoting research and dissemination of organic technologies. created a detailed regulatory framework for the production. article 76 12 . and marketing of organic products. Law No. 37. and Conservation. regulates the use of poultry manure. including among other the prohibition of using terms that could lead to consumers’ misunderstanding. 7554. one representative of the firm organizations implementing programs or projects to promote organic agriculture. setting up norms and procedures. contains provisions on the use a nd conservation of soils.1. three representatives of organizations of organic products. The NEAC comprises one representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. This “umbrella” law was important in terms of making definitions on some relevant issues: (i) It provided a definition of “organic agriculture”. Costa Rica is one of the Latin American countries that has advanced most in developing institutions to deal with organic agriculture. approved in May 1998. and one representative of the registered organic certification firms 13 . a) The Organic Environment Law. 7554. The main laws dealing with organic agriculture in Costa Rica are the Organic Environment Law No. 7554 approved in November 1995 and the Organic Agriculture Decree approved by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1997. 25834. (ii) It designated the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock as the government agency in charge of designing and implementing policies concerning organic agriculture. 25538. 11 Law No.11 (iii) It established the obligation of organic products to be certified by a national or international certification firm registered before the Costa Rican State. 7554.B. article 73 12 Law No. In addition. one representative of the state universities with experience in the dissemination of organic technologies. approved in October 1996. processing. 7779 of Soil Use. articles 74 and 75 13 Law No. which were expanded in more detail in 2000—though not changed in substance—were the following: (i) Detailed definitions on the nature of organic agricultural products. 10 Decree No. b) Organic Agriculture Decree No. Laws and regulations 35. The most important measures. including a set of laws and a National Organic Agriculture Program.10 36. The main policy instruments were created in the mid1990s. B. several other la ws were approved to regulate various issues related to organic agriculture. soil conservation. controlling certification firms. Management.

or authorizing specialized certification persons or firms.(ii) Designation of the Ministry of Agriculture. packing. it was established that the Ministry of Agriculture would be responsible for establishing norms for the production. and industries producing organic inputs. which was approved in May 1997. including among others the use of organicallygrown seeds. This decree was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in May 1998 as a regulation of the Phytosanitary Protection Law No. the application of soil conservation measures. marketing. through the National Organic Agriculture Program. Among other provisions. and marketing of organic products. 38. and the definition of a minimum of a threeyear period of applying the norms of organic production in order for a product to be defined as organic. The main instruments that the NOAP has used in doing its work 14 15 Decree No. established a complete set of general regulations about phytosanitary controls. It established that the Phytosanitary State Service of the Ministry of Agriculture would handle the registration of producers and processors of organic vegetables and inputs. it provided detailed definitions on the requisites and procedures for obtaining the organic certification and the registration and operation of certification firms and inspectors. 7664 of one year earlier. processing. In addition. and included some specific provisions related to organic agriculture. farms. packing. B. it created an Organic Certification Committee with functions equivalent to those of a certification firm. articles 5 and 7 Article 37 16 Article 11 13 . it established that the government would promote organic agriculture by covering the costs of certification for up to two years to small farmers who demonstrate not having the capacity to pay for it. It established that the Phytosanitary Services would supervise and control the compliance with norms and procedures of organic certification. and control of organic products. d) Decree No. The MAG would determine if the products meet the quality and technical specifications established in the la ws and regulations and would provide an “organic stamp” from the MAG. supervising the compliance with the established procedures and issuing the certificates of organic production. 25834. processing. (iv) Obligation of registering before the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock all the products named as “organic products”. In addition. including fertilizers and products for the control of pests and diseases and for food processing. conservation. 15 (v) A list of authorized inputs. 26921. the implementation of a plan for water conservation in the case of irrigated crops. labeling. as the government organization in charge of supervising the application of regulations and of promoting organic agriculture. The National Organic Agriculture Program 40.16 In addition. inspectors. certification. 7664. 39. c) Phytosanitary Protection Law No.2. register certification firms. inspection. the application of a farm management plan to provide adequate protection to the crops. This law. The National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP) was initiated in 1994 within the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock with the objective of supporting and promoting the development of organic agriculture in Costa Rica.14 (iii) Creation of detailed norms for the production.

it obtains what is called “third-country status”. which were created starting in the mid-1990s. Just the opposite. universities. Therefore. An additional alleged positive effect of developing national institutions is the decrease in the costs of certification faced by farmers. carry out training. This fact does not mean that these new institutions are not necessary. improve laws. The effects of the new laws and government organizations on organic agriculture 42. NGOs.g. and extension. Industry. In fact. and marketing of organic products. and prepared the next year an Action Plan with the participation of representatives from government agencies. d) Formulation of studies and plans. and other support policies. so they had to pay for expensive air tickets and for professional fees similar to the ones that these inspectors charged to their home producers. 43. and producer associations. 44. Until the 1990s. the Ministry of Health. in the same way that countries now need to develop institutions to ensure that standards on animal and plant health are met. the Ministry of the Economy. these institutions have become essential for gaining access to export markets because of new demands from importing countries that were absent in the past. being Argentina the only in Latin America. the development of these institutions s i necessary to sell in export markets. In addition. and promote the production. The Action Plan proposed alliances between government and private agencies to generats information. the presence of laws and institutions implies that exporters of organic products have a national framework that supports them in case of any problem in the foreign markets. only six countries had obtained the “third-country status”. While in some countries (e. Once a country meets these requirements. c) Training. Until mid-2001. and is able to export organic products certified with its own certification firms. research. NGOs. The program made a diagnosis of the situation of organic agriculture in Costa Rica in 1999. the very emergence of organic agriculture took place in the late 1980s in the absence of these institutions. the European Union recently established that countries exporting organic products to EU members will have to satisfy minimum standards in terms of having national laws and institutions that ensure that their national production and certification of organic products meet the EU standards. e) Support to research activities. As it was explained earlier.17 41. the new laws and regulations required that all certification firms registered and had offices in Costa Rica. and international organizations. producer associations. coordinating various activities with government and private organizations. f) Promotion of incentives. a farmer or group of farmers had to pay high costs because inspectors traveled from foreign countries. Guatemala) 17 18 See PNAO (1999) See PNAO (2000) 14 . mainly the MAG. After a slow start. their effects in the development of organic crops have not been significant yet.have been the following: a) Promotion of organic agriculture among producers and consumers. and g) Coordination with different public and private agencies. the CNP. and Energy. similarly to other Latin American countries (with the only exception of Argentina). b) Dissemination of information. the certification firms working in Costa Rica were from European countries or the US. Costa Rica had completed its application and was hopeful to obtain the “third-country status” soon. credit. and institutions dealing with organic agriculture.18 B.3. In contrast. transformation. While Costa Rica has made significant progress in developing institutions dealing with organic agriculture. regulations. nationally-based certification firms faced significantly lower travel expenses and could pay lower fees to inspectors based in Costa Rica. In fact. Thus. the NOAP has become more active since the late 1990s.

a one-semester course on Organic Agriculture started to be provided as a part of the academic program for the Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences. Unfortunately. 45. without any public policy specifically targeted to support organic agriculture. 15 . This partnership has a cost for the national firm. 49. BCS Oko garantie (Germany). Although there are a few programs focused specifically in sustainable agriculture. two other foreign certification firms registered and opened offices in San José. the University of Costa Rica. The incorporation of organic agriculture in the programs of universities and training institutions 47. the national certification firms in Costa Rica— similarly to other countries—had to make partnerships with foreign certification firms in order to satisfy the buyers of Costa Rican products. and it has a bachelor’s program in Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources attended by Costa Rican and international students. Universities and training institutions in Costa Rica have been increasingly incorporating organic agriculture in their programs since the early 1990s. Some organizations—mainly NGOs and universities—later started to support organic farmers in production and marketing. 48. Thus. As a part of the program. INA). In addition. The whole program has an approach to agriculture based on long-term sustainability. The reasons may are likely to be the following: a) Buyers from importing countries still show their preferences for certifying the products that they purchase with certification firms from their own countries. The University of Costa Rica created an Organic Agriculture Program in 1995.national certification firms started operations. In any case. In this partnerships. EARTH is a private international university that established its campus in the province of Limón in 1990. b) There has been only one national certification firm (Eco-Logica) registered until early 2001. and the National Training Institute ( Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje. 46. and Skal. they still had to make partnerships with European or US certification firms in order to be respected in the importing countries. which is totally transferred to the producer. Ecocert (France-Germany). The most important institutions doing university and professional training in organic agriculture are EARTH. but two certifications are given—one from each of the two firms. the national certification firm usually carries out most of the work involved in the certification process. For this reason. according to most of the producers and producer associations interviewed. and without specific institutions. and organic agriculture is viewed in the context of sustainable models of agricultural production. when an one (Aimcopop) registered and started operating. emerged as a result of producers’ initiatives. as well as other crops that started to be grown since the late 1990s. as a coordination and exchange entity for all the teaching and research initiatives at the university on organic agriculture. agricultural specialists in Costa Rica—especially the younger ones who studied in the 1990s—usually have a concern and general knowledge about sustainable agriculture and technologies of organic production. It carries out education and research in agricultural sciences. C. the costs of certification in Costa Rica seemed not to have fallen. with which they have worked in the past and they trusted. there seems not to be enough competition yet in the market of certification firms. it is important that the organic production of cacao and banana in Talamanca. including OCIA (US).

INA is a government agency created in 1960 that provides training to workers in all economic sectors. 50. which comprises a large number of organizations. D. such as the National Coffee Association (Asociación Nacional del Café . Research on organic agriculture in Costa Rica started in the late 1980s with a project funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that was implemented jointly by the University of Costa Rica and the INA. and created in 1997 a “Specialized Center in Organic Agriculture”. This project studied the use of organic fertilizers (“bocashi”) as an input in the production of organic vegetables in Costa Rican Central region. 53. to provide training and carry out research in organic agriculture. It is quite well funded. D. several institutions had started research projects on subjects related to organic agriculture. The project included the participation of Japanese researchers and volunteer professionals. such as agriculture. 51. so a relatively small (but growing) number of students has been taking it. the academic program has not changed substantially. food processing. The National Learning Institute (INA) has also been implementing training activities on organic agriculture. As a result of the project activities. Training courses provided by the INA are usually short-term. By the mid-1990s. which carry out research in their agricultural or technology faculties. and banana. metal-mechanic. INA started to provide training to small farmers in organic agriculture in 1994. The views and policies of agricultural research. Costa Rica has a largely fragmented agricultural research system. and c) government organizations. which focus on different sectors and activities. and credit agencies Agricultural research 52. with substantially less presence of organic research in producer associations and government institutions.5% of the wages. such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Science and Technology. agricultural machinery. focusing on the conventional agriculture. extension. and the course on Organic Agriculture is optional. and researchers at the University of Costa Rica became interested in organic methods of production. receiving the revenues obtained from a tax paid by firms with more than ten permanent workers and calculated as a 1. and INA started to incorporate organic agriculture in its training courses.1. The Specialized Center in Organic Agriculture is located in Cartago and has an annual budget of 45 million colones (USD 135. including eight professionals that carry out both training and research activities. having benefited around 1. vegetable production. and which is well-known in Costa Rica for having done an effective job. sugar. the project was instrumental in promoting the adoption of organic fertilizers by many farmers and firms producing vegetables in the Central region. which have created research institutes to support the improvement of the respective crops. and it was based on the Fabio Baudrit Experimental Station located in Alajuela. services and tourism.200 small farmers between 1998 and 2000. In addition. b) several universities. Universities have been the ones that have most advanced in organic research. 16 . and organic agriculture. INA organizes its activities in seven regional offices and twelve “Technology Centers”.However. ANACAFE). rural management.861). animal production. firms. several farmers. such as the University of Costa Rica and the University of Heredia. One of these technology centers (the “Agriculture Technology Center”) covers areas like soils and water. as a part of its “Agricultural Technology Center”. including the following: a) producer associations in several crops like coffee.

the INA has also been implementing research activities on organic agriculture.g. The commission was given a fourfold mandate: a) to advise government ministers on matters of agricultural research and technology transfer policy. and threats (the so-called SWOT analysis) of the new PITTA and its target commodity or production factor. 58. and the development of organic pesticides. In the late 1980s. the University of Costa Rica had about 20 researchers involved in research and educational activities in organic agriculture and who were part of its Organic Agriculture Program. and d) to establish a national system of agricultural information. the development of post-harvest technologies. weaknesses. The 19 See Hobbs et al (1998) 17 . which would plan and coordinate activities of all the organizations working on a specific commodity or production factor (e. which have frequently worked with little coordination. the government started to make efforts to create a coordination body. PITTAs). In addition. CONITTA initially included fifteen research organizations—later incorporating several others—and established mechanisms of coordination and collaboration. EARTH has been carrying out research in its own campus. and evaluate the national programs. By 2001. 19 59. Like in professional training. so they may not be sustainable in the long term. CONITTA organized national commodity and production-factor programs (National Programs of Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer. 56. the development of technologies to control several pests and diseases. There were fifteen research projects. In spite of this progress. based on an analysis of the strengths. There is still a great knowledge vacuum in several areas. it was attempting to identify materials and practices to incorporate inputs to the soil. Research concentrated on determining dosage of organic fertilizers. The project had determined that the production systems that characterize the organic production of banana among members of APPTA in Talamanca may extract more nutrients than what it was incorporated to the soil. 55. 57. b) to establish national programs in accordance with government policy. often duplicating efforts and competing for resources. including among others the definition of the best dosage for the various organic inputs in different soil and climate conditions of the country. Its objective was to analyze alternative management practices in the organic production of banana to be sold fresh. CONITTA then requested each to prepare a diagnostic study. especially potassium.54. corn and water). which are carried out at the campus in San José and at the Fabio Baudrit Research Station. and the incorporation of microeconomic analysis to the organic research. Finally. Each national program elected its own coordinator. which eventually led to the creation of a National Commission of Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer (CONITTA) in 1989. One of the projects focused on the banana organic production systems in Talamanca. there has been little coordination and exchange of information among the different institutions and professionals involved in research on organic technologies. the most active university institutions have been EARTH and the University of Costa Rica. the development of new methods of processing plants for medical use. This relates partly to the characteristics of the agricultural research system in Costa Rica. Each PITTA had a technical committee comprised by all the organizations interested in a specific commodity and key researchers in the field. most of them in the development of new pesticides and fertilizers. As one of its first tasks. monitor. mostly on organic pesticides and fertilizers. and it was being implemented in collaboration with APPTA. opportunities. research in organic agriculture has related much more to the initiative of individual researchers than to more or less structured research programs that might have resulted from the definition of organic agriculture as a priority by the different institutions. Thus. c) to manage.

and finance projects related to research. It started with a seed capital of about USD 100. and it transferred its storage facilities to farmer associations. milk. discuss. the CNP would work jointly with the MAG’s extension services in providing technical assistance to its implementation. irrigation. setting prices to producers and consumers. One of the programs focused on organic farming. it reformulated its mission towards promoting the diversification of agriculture. and that research should take into account technologies already developed by farmers. It stopped buying farmers’ crops and setting up price controls. which have completely suspended the provision of public extension services to farmers. In addition. In the early 1990s. the PITTA on organic farming began making progress under the influence of the National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP). and open to dimensions other than production. and it made some definitions about the approach that research activities should have. corn. the extension services have suffered substantial budget cuts that reduced the number of extensionists and the availability of vehicles and equipment. CNP). 18 . These funds made possible for the CNP to provide subsidized credit to small farmers to establish perennial crops. beans. the CNP worked jointly with the MAG’s extension services. 63. The CNP had funds available to support producers in farmer associations that were willing to adopt new crops. In carrying out its new mission. through the introduction of new crops. especially among small farmers. citric fruits. it argued that farmers should be incorporated into the research in organic agriculture. and processing of organic products. In addition. or to give grants to their associations to cover part of the costs of storage facilities. such as the markets of organic products. or other collective investments. managing storage facilities. and promote donor projects. The CNP had been created in the 1960s as an organization in charge of the implementation of a food s ecurity policy based on ensuring the supply of basic grains to the country’s population at low prices. Agricultural extension 61. practical. buying crops from farmers. including the need for being systemic. However. trucks. The NOAP identified that a research program on organic agriculture needed to be formulated with all the institutions involved in agricultural research. the government implemented important policy reforms. Differently than other Central American countries. as well as production and market opportunities. After a slow start. support. Once the project was evaluated and approved.000. training. and could plan. Eighteen programs were initially established in products like avocado. banana. potatoes. and diffusion of agricultural technology in the country. the CNP went through a great reform in its mission. and others.SWOT analysis included an evaluation of the resources available for research on that commodity in each of the different organizations involved. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) has been providing extension services through its regional and local offices located throughout the country. In addition. The agency intervened actively in the market of basic grains.2. tomatoes. The process involved an application by a farmer association and the formulation of a project jointly by the CNP’s Project Formulation Unit and the MAG’s Sectoral Projects Unit. 60. mainly for export. The MAG has worked more closely since the second half of the 1990s with the National Production Council (Consejo Nacional de Producción. As a result. economic studies. D. and importing grains in case that domestic production did not cover the demand of the population. a Foundation for the Promotion of Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer (FITTACORI) was established in 1996 with a mandate to promote. 62. beef cattle. which included among others the liberalization of the market of basic grains.

One of them involved ASOPARAISO. worked together with the CNP. The introduction of new crops and technologies by small farmers frequently requires credit to pay for investments or for increased costs of inputs. In fact. it approved the implementation of a feasibility study for a processing plant for the same farmer organizations which would produce puree of banana for export.000 hectares of guinea for export. Costa Rica created banks (the National Bank of Costa Rica) to provided long-term and short-term agricultural credit to farmers. It supports any production alternative that involves the diversification of production among small farmers. and Sixaola. 40% of which was given as a grant and 60% as a 5-year loan with a grace period of one year and 19% of real interest rate. In the case of Talamanca. At the same time. With respect to the MAG’s extension services.000 hectares. Although organic crops in Talamanca have become relevant since the early 1990s. an association of small farmers located in the lowlands. Margarita. and the other one the Guinea National Council.64. and construction of the association’s building for ASOPARAISO. Credit lines often had convinient conditions because they responded to larger goals of development policies. Financial reform in the 1990s liberalized interest rates and led to a sharp decrease in the availability of credit for small farmers from the formal banking system. the purchase of a truck for the transportation of the product. which are part of the Huetar Atlantic Region and are located in Cahuita. it has formulated a project jointly with the MAG to support farmer associations (APPTA. the CNP and the MAG’s extension services have concentrated their efforts on promoting the diversification of agriculture through the cultivation of guinea for export. which in turn exported the guinea to Europe and the US. UCANEHU. ACAPRO. which started its implementation in 2001. so it was important to find out if the organic crops in Talamanca demanded credit. 65. how farmers obtained it. it formulated and implemented jointly with the MAG’s extension services two projects supporting small farmer associations. The objective was to increase the areas with guinea in 2. and in case that they did. These initiatives do not involve any substantial change in CNP’s policies. In addition. “…CNP does not have any preference for organic or conventional agriculture. or any support specifically directed to organic agriculture. a great number of new financia l 19 . under the condition that they signed contracts with the transnational banana corporations. In addition. As put by one of CNP’s technicians in the Bribri offices. consisted of long-term credit for farmers to introduce guinea. Like in many other countries. As a result. ASOPARAISO has been able to sign contracts with Dole and Del Monte. In addition. and ABACO) in producing and marketing organic banana to be sold fresh in foreign markets. so they were not prepared to assist organic farmers with a service of acceptable quality. The project with ASOPARAISO started in 1997 and aimed at promoting the introduction of 1. D. The agency has just view organic crops in Talamanca as one more alternative of diversification with market opportunities. Agricultural credit 67. the MAG’s extension services never attended any farmer involved in organic production. It included the construction of processing facilities. and shows that is feasible at project appraisal”.440). The project with the Guinea National Council. The project total cost was 23 million of colones (USD 69. the agency’s extensionists did not have any training in organic agriculture. has good market perspectives. as this county accounts for close to 80% of the national production of guinea. the offices in Talamanca. 66.3. concentrating all their human and material resources in those offices on the provision of extension services to farmers growing guinea. The CNP promoted the creation of the Guinea National Council—an organization representing the interests of guinea producers before the public and private sector—in Talamanca. The CNP has only recently started to pay some attention to organic production. 68.

short-term credit for small farmers. neither from formal banking institutions nor from other institutions. 70. Thus. Most organic producers in Talamanca did not have any access to credit. collateral. In fact. However. the presence of credit was key for APPTA. The most important were the following: a) ANAI.20 These institutions were even more flexible than banks in the conditions of credit. APPTA was making a big effort in organizing the production of organic crops and establishing a system to monitor that all its members complied with the organic technologies. emerged to attend the rural population. As a result. More important. and especially for women. a system that consisted of paying for work with food and chicha. foundations. a traditional alcoholic beverage obtained by the fermentation of corn. instead of waiting until the association receives its payments after exporting. While most production activities are done with family labor. L ater on. with some improvements in their management. to pay for wage labor would be the most important needs of credit in the organic crops characteristic of Talamanca. Although the introduction of banana required some expenditures in purchasing plantines. the organic production systems in Talamanca involved the just the certification of the production systems that were traditional in the region. Some NGOs played a very important role in the development of organic agriculture. ANAI was key in the creation of APPTA. Thus. these were so low that often could be covered with the farmers’ own savings. who were sometimes alone and did not have resources available to hire wage labor. The existence of these funds was key for APPTA maintaing their position in the market of cacao and banana. As it was explained earlier. promoting reinforestation activities among indigenous communities. encouraging farmers to create it in order to have an organization that could serve collective interests and attract foreign donors interested in the implementation of projects that involved the preservation of the rich environment of Talamanca. some of the new activities such as cleaning fields and maintaining the cacao plants free of parts attacked by Moniliasis. a NGO of US origin that started working in Talamanca in the mid-1980s. including interest rates. this did not represent a problem in general to the organic production of cacao and banana because it did not require any significant investment. However. These financial institutions became very important sources of credit f or small farmers and they have managed important portfolios of rural credit. and others. the chichera system was still expensive because of the cost of food and chicha. other buyers with funds available could start buying and leave the association without any product. including among others savings and credit cooperatives. E. the access to credit has not been such an important problem to small farmers in Costa Rica as compared to other Central American countries. the US buyers of cacao provided APPTA with seed capital in order for the association to create a fund that has been used to pay farmers inmediately after they send their product. frequently with the support from NGOs. farmers needed to have available some non-family labor. so that the organization could purchase the production of its members. This problem affected especially women. In order to avoid this problem.institutions. 71. The role of Non-Governmental Organizations 72. A traditional system used by indigenous farmers was the “chichera”. If APPTA did not have available funds to pay farmers for their cacao and banana at the same time or a very short time after they send it to the association. were demanding in labor. 69. which consisted in the abandoned cacao crops in combination with the rainforest. and community banks. it helped to the strengthening of 20 See Barrantes et al (1997) 20 .

which was created in 1984 and has worked on organic agriculture among small farmers. In addition. a NGO that similarly to ANAI has supported indigenous communities in Talamanca since the mid-1980s. it has carried out useful studies about the situation and problems of organic agriculture in Costa Rica. APPTA played a key role in the growth of organic agriculture in Talamanca and in the access of small farmers to the organic markets. having organized fairs since 1999 in San José. Fundación Guilombé has provided these farmer associations with training and technical assitance in negotiating contracts with buyers of organic products. ANAO participated actively in the creation of the first Costa Rican organic certification firm. As it was mentioned earlier. F. In addition. The first collective tasks that APPTA undertook consisted of building and opening an input supply store. 75. it received support from the Inter-American Foundation (a US foundation that received funds from the US Congress to implement poverty alleviation projects in Latin America) to strengthen the association. a NGO of US origin. d) National Association of Organic Agriculture (Asociación Nacional de Agricultura Orgánica. CEDECO provides training to small farmers and it has promoted the domestic marketing of organic products. and it was key in the establishment of contacts between APPTA and foreign buyers of organic cacao. the Association of Organic Peasant Producers ( Asociación de Campesinos Productores Orgánicos. especially the cultivation of organic banana and sugarcane by small farmer organizations. c) CEDECO. several members argued by the late 1980s that 21 . promoting reforestation and the introduction of new species of trees in harmony with the preexisting forests. Its emphasis has been on promoting organic agriculture. 74. APPTA is not the only farmer association producing organic crops in Talamanca. b) Fundación Güilombé. The role of the Talamanca Small Farmers Association 73. Other associations include the Borden Association of Conservationist and Organic Agriculture ( Asociación Borden de Agricultura Conservacionista y Orgánica. ABACO). but it is the most important one in terms of number of farmers and volumes sold. it organized workshops to promote discussions with other institutions about the challenges faced by organic agriculture. ACAPRO). including the construction of buildings and purchase of equipment. and participated in discussions towards the development of a legal framework for organic agriculture. In addition. ANAI had been working since the mid1980s with indigenous communities in Talamanca. Soon afterwards.APPTA in the first stages of the organization. ANAO) is an association comprising more than 160 organic producers of all sizes. APPTA worked with environmental organizations and NGOs to promote rainforest conservation. ANAI encouraged the creation of APPTA with the idea of attracting international donors that supported indigenous communities in developing countries and of promoting the collective marketing of products. APPTA was created in 1987 as a result of the support from ANAI. While APPTA was quite successful in attracting international funds for the conservation of the rainforest in a region with indigenous communities. it also participated actively in the development of the Costa Rican legislation on organic agriculture. and the UCANEHU Association. and it has been providing training in the certification process to professionals who wish to work as inspectors. which is still operating nowadays. It was created in 1992 to promote organic agriculture. These associations include a lower number of farmers and only produce organic banana. mainly through training and the promotion of certification as an instrument to gain access to markets. where small farmers sell their organic vegetables every one or two weeks.

APPTA decided to use these committees as a basis for the new 22 . the presence of APPTA was instrumental for the organic cacao buyers. After several years of negotiations. the monitoring system makes sure that things work well permanently. which eventually led to contacts with buyers of organic products. and which had been abandoned because of the attack and susceptibility to the Panama disease caused by Fusarium cubensis. 78. Thus. the organization committed to organize a monitoring system as a part of the obligations in the certification process—what is usually called by certification firms as “internal control system”. This is a key part of the certification. This has been the most important task carried out by APPTA. While these cases frequently involved a costly transition. Thus. instead of organizing a central team of technicians who p ermanently visit farmers—as it is done in many farmer associations elsewhere—APPTA created “local committees” in the different villages. These discussions marked the start of a more active role of the organization in searching for possible markets for their products. in which yields fell significantly. industries of German origin with facilities in San José which used the product as a raw material for producing organic baby food (puree of banana) that they exported to the US and Europe. in addition to the annual inspection and other possible “surprise” inspections that are carried out by the certification firm. as it was able to organize an efficient marketing system. APPTA was able to start selling organic banana to Trobanex and Gerber. organic production in Talamanca did not involve a substantial change in production. Many of APPTA’s farmers had banana in addition to cacao. 79. When APPTA negotiated the first contract to sell organic cacao. Buyers from foreign countries often do not want to face the costs of dealing with a large number of individual farmers. APPTA played a key role in the access to organic markets in three ways: 76. where farmers shifted to organic production from previous conventional technologies. 77. and were promoting the idea of obtaining the organic certification of these plantations. Most of them used the Gros Michell variety that had been used in commercial plantations grown by transnational corporations in Talamanca in the 1950s. b) Organizing the marketing of organic cacao and banana. preventing that individual farmers use forbidden inputs and punishing those who do not comply. APPTA started to negotiate with firms in Costa Rica to sell organic needed to change its focus towards more sustainable activities. APPTA was able to find a market for crops that had been abandoned and which were producing at such low yields that they were not even being harvested. a) Identifying the possibility of certifying as organic the production systems dominant among small farmers in Talamanca. such as fresh vegetable production and coffee plantations in the Central Region. After its success in selling organic cacao. These local committees had been created in the mid-1980s to carry out reforestation activities with the support from foreign donors. cacao and banana were certified without substantial changes in the technologies of production. purchasing the product from farmers and delivering to them in a timely manner. In fact. These buyers were looking for regions in developing countries where cacao plantations had been abandoned for several years due to pests and diseases. they prefer to negotiate with firms or farmer associations that can deliver the required amounts of product at specific times of the year. While these inspections are more like “pictures” describing the situation at a particular time. in contrast to producers of other regions. c) Setting up and managing a monitoring system to ensure that all farmers use organic technologies. This was possible because when looking for market opportunities. APPTA made contact with the help of ANAI with buyers of cacao in the United States. The international norms that regulate the certification of products from groups of small farmers establish the obligation that the group organizes what is called an “internal control system”. In fact. Thus. APPTA was able to organize an efficient system that is decentralized and based on members’ participation.

APPTA obtained economies of scale in marketing. it was making a feasibility study to produce organic banana to be sold fresh in the international market. they generated a more uniform source of income throughout the year. Organic cacao and banana became important sources of cash income. In addition. A. APPTA was able to certify as organic the production systems that its members were already using. 81. As a result. a President. but under the rainforest and in conjunction with other fruits and tubers. V. or else everybody would suffer from negative effects and even loss of the market. beans. Thus. The monitoring 23 . Organic production of cacao and banana had great positive impacts on the incomes and quality of life of small farmers in Talamanca. 82. Organic cacao and banana were produced in a production system that was friendly with the rainforest. They were not grown as single crops. APPTA was able to negotiate contracts for certifying and selling organic banana. After its initial success with organic cacao. they contributed to the conservation of the rainforest and of wildlife. the system worked well because APPTA gave intensive training to the communities about the relevance of complying. Each of the 25 committees that have been created has a board. and a Treasurer elected by the organic farmers who are members of APPTA in each village. The organic production systems also had positive effects on the environment of Talamanca— one of the most diverse ecosystems in Costa Rica and at the same time one of the most affected by the expansion of commercial agriculture on rainforest areas. vegetables and tubers. The local committees receive complaints from any member about non-complying farmers and decide on the penalties to be imposed to them. These producers had lost their main source of cash income in the late 1970s due to the attack of Moniliophtora roreri sp to their cacao plantations. The interviews that I carried out with members of APPTA in different communities showed that the local committees have worked very well because their roles are well-known by other members of the communities and their decisions are fully respected.monitoring system. (ii) As a farmer association that sold the members’ products collectively. In addition. and the danger for everybody losing the market if someone did not comply. even when they are tough. without any significant change in technology. Conclusions and preliminary lessons Conclusions 80. rice. and it negotiated a contract with a supermarket chain in San José to sell organic fruits. (iii) It organized a monitoring system that effectively controlled that all members complied with the organic methods of production—one of the key requirements of the organic certification process to small farmer associations. and poultry. just selling as organic the products that were already produced. The Talamanca Small Farmers Association (APPTA) played a key role in the development of organic production because of the following reasons: (i) It had the technical capacity to search for new opportunities for its members. and because banana was harvested about every two weeks all-year round and cacao twice a year. managing volumes that lowered transactions costs of negotiating and implementing contracts with foreign buyers of cacao. APPTA provided intensive training to its members that was instrumental in convincing them that it was essential to comply with the organic technologies. as well as with foreign firms located in Costa Rica that purchased banana for producing organic baby foods. by the early 1990s they were living on subsistence products—mainly corn.

without the participation of external agents or professionals. Meanwhile. certification costs are likely to fall in the future—something that has not happened yet mainly due to the small number of certification firms in the market. However. In addition. the NOAP have become important in coordinating the actions of the various institutions involved in some way with organic agriculture. which emerged several years earlier. 85. and they included collective investments in packing and storage. These actions were very important in creating a good international image of Costa Rica and for meeting new requirements imposed by the EU to exporters of organic products. they encouraged small farmers to shift to these crops— among them the organic ones. As a result of all these efforts. Costa Rica made great progress during the 1990s in developing institutions to deal specifically with organic agriculture. though it is not compulsory. A National Organic Agriculture Program was created in 1994. most professionals in agriculture have a general idea of 24 . key government organizations working with the agricultural sector—the CNP and the MAG’s extension services—shifted from its previous emphasis on basic grains to non-traditional crops. the University of Costa Rica created an Organic Agriculture Program that includes all the research and teaching activities and faculty. These requirements included the creation of appropriate laws and institutions to deal with organic agriculture that ensured that organic products were analyzed and certified according to EU standards. and specific laws and regulations concerning various aspects of organic agriculture were approved in the second half of the 1990s. It also established a one-semester course on Organic Agriculture as a part of the Bachelor’s program in Agricultural Sciences. Trade policies reduced dramatically the intervention of the state in the marketing of basic grains. though they did not play a significant role in the emergence of organic cacao and banana in Talamanca and in the success of APPTA. though there is still a great space for further progress. 86. Also. and in addition to programs that promoted the cultivation of non-traditional crops. INA recently created a teaching and research station in Cartago to work exclusively with organic agriculture. characterized by high rates of growth and exports. as they implied the improvement of the production systems predominant among small farmers. 84. Such a move may make possible for Costa Rica to be accepted as a having “thirdcountry status”—a status only held by Argentina in the Latin American region and which will become essential for maintaining the access to European markets. The most important investments that organic farmers had to make were off-farm. In addition. the requirements of labor were significant and often required contracting wage labor. because the new norms require the presence of nationally-based certification agencies. 83. The organic production of cacao and banana in Talamanca did not require any significant onfarm investment. Government p olicies and institutions were in general supportive of organic agriculture. though they focused mainly on those grown with conventional technologies of production and paid little attention to organic crops. 87. they are important because they provide a support system for any exporter in case of any problem in the foreign markets. Universities and training institutions for agricultural specialists have been incorporating organic agriculture in their programs since the mid-1990s. This became a contraint for the incorporation of women to organic agriculture—even though the proportion of women at APPTA was significantly high. EARTH has a Bachelor’s program in Agricultural Sciences that is totally oriented to sustainable agriculture and considers explicitly the methods of organic agriculture. Women often faced more difficulties to access cash to pay for wage labor. Economic policies led to a favorable economic environment. In addition.system was effective and inexpensive because it was based on local committees at the community level that controlled compliance. In addition. However. The development of laws and institutions did not influence the production of organic cacao and banana in Talamanca.

so farmers’ experimentation has been the most important source of new technologies. making possible to obtain better prices. (ii) The organization of a monitoring system that is able to control effectively that all farmers members comply with the organic methods of production. strengthening associations like APPTA. The National Program of Organic Agriculture has been making efforts to coordinate the research activities of different agencies through the PITTA on organic agriculture—a body that includes the various actors involved and defines policies. which have all focused on the evaluation and development of organic inputs. Potential lessons 89. agriculture and knowledge about some technologies. and the organic certification of the products obtained may help turning them into viable economic alternatives. The other numerous organizations that comprise the fragmented agricultural research system in Costa Rica have focused on conventional technologies. not carrying out any significant work. Several institutions have been carrying out research on organic agriculture since the early 1990s. Collective action plays a key role in obtaining economies of scale in marketing. 92. b) The organic production that involved an improved traditional production system have the advantage of not requiring significant on-farm investments. these research activities have not generated a significant pool of organic technologies. These organizations could be organized in terms of a set of tasks that are essential for the success of the initiative: (i) The collective marketing of production. though they usually need additional training when they have to work in projects that focus on organic agriculture and require some more sophisticated knowledge. they have great positive effects on the conservation of the environment. The case of organic production in Talamanca shows some potential lessons for IFAD with respect of how to support the adoption of organic crops in small farmers. The most important ones have been EARTH. 25 . the University of Costa Rica. and INA. who are most exposed to face difficulties in carrying out the labor-intensive tasks usually involved in the organic production. B. The organic certification of the products should be complemented with further efforts to obtain for the small farmers involved the deserved payments for the environmental services involved in these production systems. The following are the most important lessons: 90. a) The products from some traditional production systems applied by small farmers—for example the production of some crops under the rainforest. However. In any case. These production systems are frequently seen in a negative way for the low productivity of the crops if compared with the single crop production system. c) Programs and projects that promote the adoption of organic crops among small farmers should strongly support farmers’ organization. However. some form of credit should be available for contracting labor—the most important factor o f production that farmers need to purchase. preserving it and the wildlife that they contain—may be certified as organic with little changes or no change at all in the production practices. This credit should be available especially for women. and reducing the transaction costs that buyers face when negotiating contracts. 88.

Thus. 94. It requires clear ideas and great coordination with other government agencies and actors o f the private sector. which only required some management improvements to traditional production systems. (iv) The experience of Costa Rica shows that a government program dealing with organic agriculture may be inexpensive and effective at the same time. d) An institutional framework that strongly supports the development of organic agriculture may not be essential to its emergence and development. (iii) National laws and regulations may make possible to decrease the certification costs faced by farmers. as they lead to the establishment of nationally-based certification firms. Such a program does not need a significant budget and numerous staff in order to work well. they are essential in international negotiations involving other governments that may be crucial to open the access to foreign markets. Improvements in research require institutions to coordinate efforts to move quickly in certain areas. In addition. including mainly the determination of dosage levels of various organic inputs in different regions within countries. 26 . associations must secure access to funds to purchase the production from their members. Organizing such a system requires a heavy training at early stages in order for members of the association to understand the basis of organic agriculture and the reasons why it is necessary to comply with the organic technologies.(iii) While a monitoring system could involve a specialized technical department within the farmer association—as it is done by many farmer associations elsewhere—the experience of APPTA shows that a better alternative is to put together a system based on the organization at the local level that can be effective and substantially cheaper. 95. However. (ii) Appropriate laws and institutions dealing with organic agriculture provide protection to exporters of organic products in case that they encounter any problem in foreign markets. This type of credit will be especially necessary for female producers. These laws and institutions are intended to ensure the importing countries that organic products are produced and certified according to the EU standards. However. as the insufficient supply of professionals may become a great constraint in projects supporting organic agriculture. In addition. the analysis of potential negative effects on health of some organic inputs (especially pesticides). it is important to support the development of these institutions when they are not present for many reasons: (i) Some new requirements from importing countries (mainly the EU) in terms of developing laws and institutions dealing with organic agriculture have emerged in recent years. it is esential to support these research and training programs in case that they have not been developed yet. so that they can coordinate efforts and avoid unnecessary duplication. the increased demand for labor whic h could not be covered by the family labor available may benefit greatly by the presence of short-term credit. economic analysis of organic technologies and production systems. e) The incorporation of issues related to organic production by research and education programs of universities and training institutions is key in order to have a supply of professionals who have the adequate training and to generate a pool of technologies that solve the main problems faced by farmers. who are frequently alone and have less resources of their own to pay for wage labor. f) The needs of on-farm credit may not be significant in some organic production systems of the characteristics of Talamanca. This requires additional efforts to promote competition in the supply of certification services. 93.

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Dany Umaña. Oficina en Bribri Ing. Gerente. Carlos Pomareda. Proyecto Agroforestal CATIE/GTZ Ing. Asociación de Productores de Alfaro Ruiz Otilia Aguirre López. Giselle Alvarado Retana. IICA Geovanny Delgado Hidalgo. Presidente. Agr. Eco-Lógica Gabriela Soto. Coordinador del Programa de Agricultura Orgánica. Directora del Programa de Agricultura Orgánica. Asociación de Pequeños Productores de Talamanca (APPTA) Ing. Eco-Lógica Ing. productor APPTA 29 . Consultora RUTA Jorge León. Programa de Agricultura Orgánica. Walter Rodríguez. productor APPTA Ricardo Ríos. productor APPTA Elías Sánchez Sánchez. Melvin Díaz. productora APPTA Anastasia Hernández Hernández. Universidad de Costa Rica Ing. UPA Nacional Encarnación Pereira. Agr. Helga Blanco. Esau Miranda. Encargado de compras y acopio de cacao. Augusto Rojas. Universidad de Costa Rica Dr.A. Director de Certificación. Productos Gerber de Centroamérica S. Encargada de la Unidad Tecnológica de Agricultura Orgánica. UPANACIONAL Ing. Especialista en Desarrollo Rural. Gerente. Carmen Eugenia Morales. Jugar del Valle S. Representante. productor. Agencia de Cooperación Técnica en Costa Rica. Director. Gerente del Programa Nacional de Agricultura Orgánica Patricia Fernández. productor. Servicios Internacionales para el Desarrollo Empresarial (SIDE) Walter Rodríguez. Sección Agrícola. Universidad de Costa Rica Ing.List of persons interviewed a) Professionals and officials at government agencies. productora APPTA Eufemia Hernández Hernández. NGOs. Encargado Desarrollo de la Producción de Fruta Fresca. Universidad de Costa Rica Mario Castejón. Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje (INA) Felicia Echeverría. Universidad de Costa Rica Guillermo Saborio Ocampo. Manuel Amador. Presidente Ejecutivo. FIDA-RUTA Maureen Lizandro. UPANACIONAL Jorge Hernández. and farmer associations Ing. Asociación de Productores de Alfaro Ruiz Juan José Paniagua. Investigadora Estación Experimental Agrícola Fabio Bandrit. Claudio Gamboa Hernández. productora APPTA Darvian Páez. Corporación Educativa para el Desarrollo Costarricense (CEDECO) Dr. Directora Programa de Agricultura Orgánica. Presidente Asociación de Pequeños Productores de Talamanca (APPTA) Henry Gerrero. Director Ejecutivo. APPTA Dr. Asociación Nacional de Agricultura Orgánica (ANAO) e Investigadora en Producción Orgánica. Director Ejecutivo AUPA y Coordinador de Capacitación. Consejo Nacional de Producción. APPTA b) Farmers Juanita Baltodano. Director Ejecutivo. Carmen Durán. Especialista FAO-RUTA Pedro Cussianovich.A. Jorge Briceño. Estación Experimental Agrícola Fabio Baudrit.