Renewing Local Food Systems
During the 20th Century, the dominant economic engine for the Guanacaste region was a combination of agriculture (subsistence farming followed by the exporting of beef, rice, sugar, melons and fruit) and forestry (unregulated timber extraction followed by reforestation with pochote and non-native teak and melina). In recent decades, tourism and residential land development have supplanted the traditional economy. Besides diminishing local self-reliance, these non-sustainable economic trends have also degraded the land and altered local ecosystems. All of these changes have had a significant impact in the Nandamojo River valley.
A vibrant local economy is key to the long-term success of ROW's watershed restoration efforts. As such, we are focused on renewing local, sustainable food production as an economic engine. Through our Micro Loan Fund we are creating positive partnerships with local landowners, nurturing sustainable businesses and creating good local jobs.
We have also formed a partnership with Mi Tierra, Productos de Guanacaste, a socially-driven enterprise based in Paraíso, a watershed village. Through that partnership, we are able to help new producers market and distribute their goods.
To learn more about the importance of localized food systems, we recommend watching this video, which was created for the 2012 UVM Food Systems Summit.
Specific economic development projects being supported by ROW include:
- Expand the Mi Tierra organic farm, a 6-acre research and development program that demonstrates chinampas-style farming for the year-round commercial production of vegetables and fruits for local markets.
- Engage local farmers in increasing the percentage of food produced and consumed locally from less than 1% to greater than 10% by rediscovering traditional crop production techniques and employing new and effective sustainable practices.
- Expand wholesale distribution of locally-produced agricultural products under the Mi Tierra brand to increase annual retail sales from $5K to $100K.
- Develop a $25,000 micro loan fun to finance new, sustainable food production for the Mi Tierra brand.
- Expand local food production and processing in the Nandamojo watershed beginning with natural honey, using capital from the Mi Tierra Micro Loan Fund.
- Increase production of compost and biochar to improve soils and generate jobs while employing plant wastes more productively.
- Develop sustainable, mixed species forests that will provide economic opportunities for timber sales, local processing and production.
- Establish a certification program for area businesses whose practices support restoring the healthy of our “mountain to mangrove” ecosystem. Develop marketing and promotion programs to support these businesses, and the goods and services they offer.
- Building on the success of conservation developments Tierra Pacifica, Pueblo Verde and PuraJungla (which now cover nearly 2% of the Nandamojo watershed), support new conservation developments that will cover 5%+ (1,500 acres) of the watershed, targeting important water recharge and erosion reduction zones. Support sustainable reforestation and farming businesses that will target another 5% restoration-critical parcels in the watershed.
- Support local businesses that are aligned with ROW’s key initiatives, including recycling and composting businesses, farmers markets and eco-tourism.
- Develop new legal, management and financing structures for Mi Tierra farm cooperative and businesses initiated by Restoring Our Watershed to achieve “for-benefit” businesses which prioritize community and environment over profit and growth.