Situated in Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama and the Caribbean and Pacific, Costa Rica or “Rich Coast”, as reportedly named by Christopher Columbus in the 16th century, is the 13th largest coffee producer in the world.
A coffee lover's paradise...
It has the soil, altitude and climate to produce superior beans and coffee was first planted here in 1808. By the 1820’s it was Costa Rica’s primary export. It has since been surpassed by bananas but 90% of Costa Rican coffee is still exported.
Who needs an army anyway?
This tropical paradise abolished its army in 1948 and thrives despite the instability of countries around it. There are half a million different species of animals and plants and 800 different types of birds to be found here. It is cited as the world’s 12th happiest country in the World Happiness Report with a life expectancy on a par with Scandinavia.
It hasn’t always been like this though...
In the decades leading to the 1980’s Costa Rica lost two thirds of its forest, but fortunately a forward thinking government started to realise the adverse impact of de-forestation and the need to re-plant the lost trees.
Since the 1980’s forests have doubled in size, a quarter of the country is now protected jungle and the loss of land to cattle farming is being successfully addressed. Children are taught from an early age to respect and value the environment and schools have huge tree planting programmes, Costa Rica is aiming to become the world’s first carbon neutral country.
In the 1990’s the government also began a programme of planting a South American genus of bamboo. This works in conjunction with the planting of trees to nullify the effects of de-forestation; it stabilises denuded slopes and prevents soil erosion faster than a wood product on its own would do. After Hurricane Mitch, in 1998, it was clear that areas planted with bamboo just three years before suffered no significant damage from erosion, whereas areas of neighbouring Nicaragua, that had previously been stripped of trees, suffered huge and damaging mudslides. Bamboo also combats carbon dioxide quicker than any tree.
The only way is up...
By combining re-forestation, the planting of bamboo, educating children from an early age, living in peace and respecting the environment and the creatures that inhabit it, this small country is teaching the rest of the world how best to behave to create a better future for our planet and its inhabitants.