Updated: 5 days ago
The Nature Fund for Costa Rica is a small non-profit with a big vision.
We are working toward a world where natural and human-built ecosystems harmoniously thrive. Where protecting biodiversity is a core principle of sustainable economic development: Not an add-on, not a cherry on top - but a key fundamental design principle.
We believe this world is possible. It requires imagination, compassion, and commitment. It requires a lot of people working together - sharing values, knowledge, and resources. We do not expect it to be easy. Yet a foundation for this world already exists. Thousands of organizations and millions of people have been working on elements of this big picture for decades. We want to bring some of them together on projects in Costa Rica: Projects that already have momentum and potential for systemic change.
Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has ecological importance that vastly exceeds its small landmass. This country is a treasure of biodiversity, a home to approximately 5-6% of all the wildlife species that share our Earth. Which also means that successes go further, and failures hit harder.
In the language of systems, it’s called a “leverage point”: A point where smaller efforts can bring really big results. System analysts intentionally look for such points because they are the best targets for action.
Many species that disappeared from much of Central America have healthier populations in Costa Rica. These results are not a happy coincidence. They are a direct consequence of Costa Rican policies building significant momentum on reforestation and sustainable development. Yet this momentum always remains threatened by economic and political pressures. That whole thing with leverage points about increasing successes? It also makes threats more damaging.
Example of challenges: Corcovado National Park
The Corcovado National Park is a great illustration of complex interactions between successes and threats, as explained in depth by this Mongabay article.
To briefly summarize, there are intense disagreements among conservationists about the progress achieved in the Corcovado National Park. Some people see it as a profound success due to the sheer size of its protected area (at 41,000 hectares, it is both the largest park in Costa Rica and the largest area of wild lowland tropical rainforest left in all Central America) and due to evidence of wildlife population increases. Meanwhile, others see it as deeply endangered due to inefficient organization and persistent challenges dealing with illegal gold mining and poaching. These challenges have been going on for years without resolution. This linked article shines a light on two sides of the same issue: On both the hopes of conservation and the human stories of struggle. Conservation efforts celebrate biodiversity and increased commitment from communities and authorities to better park management and growing ecotourism. Yet income from ecotourism has not yet offset the poverty in the region that drives illegal and damaging activities in the park. As such, this situation highlights the essential need to balance human and natural prosperity, to support and achieve both — because desperation will always drive ecosystem threats, whether in forests or in cities.
What do we do?
The Nature Fund for Costa Rica a supportive platform, bringing together multiple partners (individuals and organizations) to promote, support, and advocate for systemic change that will sustainably nourish both vital ecosystems and human communities. To help local communities earn a good living through protecting nature.
Such communities already exist. Our partner Corcovado Foundation has been doing much of this work on the ground around Osa Peninsula for almost 30 years, helping rural communities with training and resources. The Santa Juana community near Quepos is another example that came together when people with common interests and values discovered they could build something together. We will share their stories, exchange best practices, and spread resources to help such projects thrive.
Who are we?
Michelle Long Spears created the Nature Fund for Costa Rica in 2020. Yet until this year, it remained essentially a single person’s dream. Throughout 2022, Michelle brought together the rest of our current team, combining non-profit, corporate, and evaluation experience. This combined expertise gives us skills to define, promote, and replicate the models of economic development that allows communities and nature to grow together. Yet as an actual team of Nature Fund for Costa Rica, we have just started our work.
On September 5-10, 2022, we officially launched our team by visiting several partner projects, including Corcovado Foundation’s Drake Bay reforestation project and a regenerative agriculture farm, the Santa Juana community, and the turtle station in Punta Mala. Over coming months and years, we will be sharing information about these initiatives and more, hoping that our passion catches on.