How Access to Finance Supports
Sustainable Cattle Ranching in Costa Rica

Puriscal is a predominantly rural region, with many micro-enterprises and small
farmers who struggle to obtain credit from traditional banks. Marvin Jiménez, a member
of Coope-Puriscal is working hard to make his farm and cattle ranching more sustainable.

Marvin Jiménez, a smallholder farmer and cattle farmer in Purisca, Costa Rica

“I have been living in the region of Puriscal in Costa Rica since I was born, but now, we really notice the changes in the climate. The sun burns much harder and it is much warmer,”

says Marvin Jiménez,
a smallholder farmer and cattle rancher.

“When the cooperative organized meetings to talk about climate change, we used to have doubts about what they said. Now we are suffering the consequences.”

For four generations, Marvin Jiménez’s family has been dedicated to farming and cattle ranching in Puriscal, Costa Rica. Puriscal is a predominantly rural region, with many micro-enterprises and small farmers who struggle to obtain credit from traditional banks. In the past, Jimenez and his family relied on traditional techniques and practices that overlooked the consequences of cutting down trees. In addition, the cultivation of tobacco has been devastating for the forests. High deforestation rates have exacerbated droughts and soil erosion in his region.

Reforestation in the region of Puriscal, Costa Rica

Within the National REDD+ Strategy of Costa Rica, cattle ranching was identified as one of the major drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. With over 1.5 million hectares of pasture across the country, and some 1.5 heads of cattle, the sector occupies about 20 percent of the country’s land surface. Transforming this sector therefore holds important mitigation potential to fight climate change.

To render farming practices more sustainable while improving the livelihoods of farmers, the UN-REDD Programme has been supporting the Government of Costa Rica to assess low-carbon productive activities, including livestock, in which collaboration with the private and the financial sector is key.

The main building of the cooperative Coope-Puriscal, Puriscal, Costa Rica

One of the cooperatives that have improved its environmental performance in the livestock sector by converting to sustainable techniques is Coope-Puriscal. It counts more than 2,200 members, including Jiménez.

“Thanks to the technical support of the cooperative, we now know how to adopt silvicultural practices on our farms,” says Jiménez. “Coope-Puriscal brought us access to finance and technical knowledge, allowing us to invest in better cattle ranching practices and planting trees. This has had many advantages. Cattle ranching used to lead to deforestation, but now we practice it differently. We keep the trees and even plant more. We have learned many things like how to improve the health of our cattle while keeping our soil healthier. People used to burn, but I don’t see that anymore.”

Marvin Jiménez, a smallholder farmer and cattle farmer in Purisca, Costa Rica

As a cooperative, Coope-Puriscal was already offering financial services to its members. While they initially focused on construction, the cooperative now provides financial services to their farmers and cattle ranchers to improve their access to credit. With the support of the UN-REDD Programme, the cooperative was accredited by the Development Banking System (SDB) of Costa Rica, enabling them to gain access to capital at lower costs, resulting in more competitive rates and terms for the beneficiaries.

“Many producers do not qualify for access to the banking system,”

says Geovanni Sánchez Salazar,
the manager of Coope-Puriscal.

“For example, when a farmer wants to access credit, he will be asked for a pay slip, but smallholder farmers cannot provide this type of document. In other cases, the banks ask farmers to send a project proposal, but those are difficult to do, take too much time, and farmers give up. The added value of what we can bring to farmers as a cooperative is not so much in the low interest rates the farmers can now obtain, but in the conditions, paperwork, accompaniment and technical assistance that we can offer them.”

Geovanni Sánchez Salazar, the manager of Coope-Puriscal,
Puriscal, Costa Rica

Financing the activities of smallholder farmers in Puriscal has increased not only the environmental sustainability of their activities, but also their incomes. Slowly, youth who left for the big cities are now coming back home. “We learned that is it is not that the youth who do not want to work on the farms, but rather the lack of opportunities that makes them move to the cities,” says Geovanni. “Now, with the credits, we see how opportunities can multiply within a family.”

Youth helping out in one of the farms in the region, Puriscal, Costa Rica

“When tobacco production stopped in Puriscal, everyone moved away to look for work elsewhere,”

says Marvin Jiménez.

“Now with Coope-Puriscal, there are many ongoing projects. Some are global like the tree planting one, and others are at the family level. I improved my farm significantly, thanks to the technical and financial support I received. This impacts my whole family. My son works here with me and was trained on the genetic improvement of our cattle, and we also produce and sell our own biogas and compost. The activities have multiplied and improved our lives significantly.”

State of the Forests in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country with ambitious goals to fight climate change and a world leader in sustainability. The country drafted a zero-emissions plan, in line with the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. More than 98 percent of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources and forest cover stands at more than 53 percent after work to reverse decades of deforestation.

REDD+ Strategy and Low-Carbon Livestock Strategy

The REDD+ National Strategy of Costa Rica, elaborated with technical support from the UN-REDD Programme, consists of six policies, 16 actions and 47 measures, which are contained in the latest version published in September 2017.
The low-carbon livestock strategy of Costa Rica was developed by the Government of Costa Rica based on the input of many stakeholders in the sector, including the public and private sector as well as producers. Since the beginning, there was an agreement that the results of the strategy needed to focus on both sequestering and reducing emissions, as well as increasing productivity and return on investment. Techniques of better rotation, better genetics, better forest management, use of forage trees and forage banks allow cattle ranchers to respond to the four main objectives of the low-carbon livestock strategy: more profits, more production, more sequestration of emissions and fewer emissions. This will help establish a model of low-carbon livestock that is more sustainable and resilient towards climate change.

Story and photos by: Alice Van der Elstraeten, Regional Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist for the UN-REDD Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean
Videos by: Media HQ