Since its entry into force in 1997, the PSA has benefited more than 18,000 families, focusing on small producers, rural women and indigenous territories. In total, it has mobilized more than US $ 524 million in contracts aimed at the conservation of more than 1.3 million hectares.
“PES is a source of income for small forest owners and small forest producers who, through this program, receive resources to survive. In such a painful year for the country due to the covid-19 pandemic, the PES has been a driving force for the rural economy and is the key to Costa Rica’s sustainable economic recovery, ”said Andrea Meza, Minister of ‘Environment and Energy.
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A Costa Rican forest, the conservation of which would improve with more inclusion and participation of indigenous women. Photo: Giancarlo Pucci / UNDP Costa Rica
Indigenous territories: a state priority
Since the inception of the program, one of the major beneficiaries has been the indigenous territories. According to Fonafifo, between 2010 and 2019, 159 contracts were signed with them for a total of $ 43 million.
In Costa Rica, the indigenous population is 104,143 people (2.4% of the total). The country has 24 territories legally constituted and protected by Law 6172 of 1977, which recognizes its communal and territorial organization.
As part of this governance, PES contracts are signed with the Associations for the Integral Development of the Indigenous Reserve (Adiri). And, internally, these organizations decide how they distribute the economic benefits derived from the program.
From 2008, Fonafifo began working on the participatory design of the REDD + strategy and convened indigenous leaders, including women.
Are indigenous activists in Costa Rica in the crosshairs?
7% of the country’s forest cover is in indigenous hands
This strategy consists of 6 policies. One of them – the fifth – focuses specifically on indigenous peoples and prioritizes four themes. The first claims that there is an indigenous PES that respects this group’s worldview of the forest and, therefore, shares it with the rest of the population. In fact, they want this vision to be included in the National Forest Development Plan.
How is land management going?
Another problem is to resolve conflicts related to land ownership. Although indigenous territories are delimited by law, the reality is that there are non-indigenous people living there, who must be expropriated by the state.
There are also cases of invasion which have generated violent clashes. In connection with the above, there are still cases of land overlap between indigenous territories and the protected wild areas that were created later.
In favor of a solution, the indigenous peoples propose to conclude an agreement for the co-management of these overlapping territories, since they share a common interest: the conservation of the forest. For this, legal reform is necessary, since Costa Rica does not allow the co-management of national parks, wildlife refuges or reserves.
The fourth theme relates to the assurance of participation and follow-up, as well as to its monitoring. In this effort, within the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae), a commission was created to deal with indigenous issues.
In addition to actively participating in this process, Aboriginal women have gone one step further; they advocated including lines of action on gender issues in the fifth policy and permeating others to make them more inclusive. All they asked for in return was an opportunity to show what they are capable of.
“If they support us, there is a lot we can do for other women,” says Villanueva. “There are direct actions of women in indigenous territories. We can demonstrate experience in fund management. Women, if they give us credit, we have no delinquency rate ”.