At Café Monteverde, we learned about sustainability practices, toured the coffee farm, and served a local community school. The tropical forests that are native to Costa Rica provide many benefits for their economy and to society as a whole. This land is rich in biodiversity and conservation efforts began without an intention of tourism. Unlike the rest of Costa Rica where the government funds and spearheads sustainability initiatives, the conservation efforts in Monteverde are private and local. Monteverde has evolved from a farming culture into a tourism haven. We learned that tourism is about 85% of their economy and this helps awareness of biodiversity, brought women more rights, and decreased the machismo culture.
Sustainability is especially important to the farmers in Monteverde as they truly care about preserving the environment for future generations. When asked what makes these coffee farmers happy, they respond with good tasting coffee, tourists and students with a positive attitude, and a good mixture for natural fertilizer. Jerson and Don Guillermo were wholesome, kind, and giving individuals. They were proud of their conservation efforts and kept repeating how they aim to improve each year as well as invent new ways of protecting the environment. Café Monteverde also provides free education for local students and farmers learning to practice their trade. Similar to other coffee plantations in Costa Rica, Café Monteverde’s field workers are from Nicaragua. This company pays Nicaraguans above average wages per cajuela of coffee cherries and provides them with housing, daycare, and medical support. Additionally, the coffee farmers were generous because they stepped right in to paint the playgrounds and setup the garden at the local school.
Even though sustainability is becoming more commonplace in Costa Rica, alternative practices are often less expensive and time consuming. Challenges faced by these farmers may include the extra cost of maintaining a sustainable farm. Creating their own fertilizer involves an intricate process and the farmers must forgo the opportunity of expanding their fields and profit from cutting down part of the forest. They must also be constantly innovating and improving upon their conservation efforts. As Jerson said, using student made technologies such as the methane gas convertor for energy, saves fuel and creates a sustainable cycle for Café Monteverde. The manure from the pigs creates methane gas to power the stove, which then cooks food from the garden. The path continues, feeding the animals and creating compost and natural fertilizer for the coffee plants. Eventually this cycle ends and repeats with the pigs being fed and producing more manure.
Learning about different sustainability practices in Costa Rica is fascinating. I am in awe of the natives’ respect and care about the environment that they reside in and I am beginning to develop a new appreciation for nature. In the near future, I hope some of this environmental recognition passion starts to appear in the United States!