Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
Other forest landowners have told us that they would like to replicate our model. We have talked with local NGOs in order to discuss further collaborations in the fight against illegal lodging and poaching. Important scientists/conservationists (the ones behind the creation of Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge) have joined our project as members/co-owners. We also belong to the Costa Rican Network of Nature Reserves.
Sarapiquí, where our project is located, is one of the poorest and less populated regions in the country. Many families leave and go to the city in search of work opportunities. With this project, local families are obtaining benefits from this enterprise without having to leave their birthplace, as they are being hired as good and services producers and provides, for instance, tour guides, building of the ecolodge, food, lodging and transportation, among others. Sometimes in this rural town a whole family can earn less than $150 per month, which means less than $5 per day. A group of 5 tourists who request food, agricultural products, a guided tour and other goods and services normally would leave $50 per day or even more, which will certainly improve the financial situation of a family.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
At this moment, the primary problem that our innovation is addressing is financial, because since our funds are limited, we cannot hire more people to build the ecolodge faster, which in turn is an obstacle for our ecotourism plans. Also, we cannot market the project on a large scale.
Time is another problem, since most of the members of the organization have full-time jobs.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?
We are aware that innovation is key; the organizations that don’t implement innovations could disappear, especially those who belong to the ecotourism field. That’s why we are building good relationships with our neighbors and organizations that are working in the area or are related to conservation.
In order to purchase the forested land, years ago we created the corporation Ceibas y Almendros, per Costa Rican laws. This corporation has 100 shares. Our funding source is private, because it comes primarily from the selling of these shares. Each person who purchases a share becomes a member of Ceibas y Almendros and also a co-owner of the private biological reserve. We plan to offer regular canoeing, kayaking and birdwatching tours in the early future and establish a demonstrative nursery with native plant species.
We have already sold 40% of the shares. This seed money has allowed us to begin building an ecolodge and we will further implement clean technologies such as greywater treatment systems, biodigesters and composting toilets. We are still selling the rest of the shares, and for that, we are taking advantage of different ways to market our project such as fairs, online forums, newsletters and others.
There are some barriers that might prevent success, such as the individualistic mentality of Costa Rican citizens: it’s relatively difficult to find people that would like to share a space with other people. Also, since ours is a conservation project and we don’t allow constructions in the property (with the exception of the ecolodge and other facilities in the pastures area) some might not want to be a co-owner of a land where they cannot build a house. The access to the zone is also not that easy, because there is only one daily bus that stops nearby.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
First year: We expect to sell at least 20% or more of the remaining shares. The construction of the ecolodge will be finished and will be suitable for regular ecotourism groups. We will continue establishing connections with other conservation NGOs.
Second year: We expect to sell another 20% or more of the remaining shares. We will begin the implementation of biodigesters, greywater treatment system and composting toilets. We will start offering canoeing, kayaking and birdwatching tours in the forest interior.
Third year: Expansion of the ecolodge or lodging facilities. We plan to organize environmental education workshops in the region and develop sustainable ecotour projects along with other neighbors. We will invite scientists who would like to study the Manatee, the Great Green Macaw and other endangered species. We will establish a demonstrative nursery with native plants and begin a permaculture project.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
We plan to share this model with other landowners who are selling their properties but are emotionally attached to their forested lands. This sustainable model will allow them to stay as co-owners of the properties and help reducing the problem of forest fragmentation. Extensive pineapple cultivation has brought severe environmental problems to the region; ecotourism is a more viable and environmentally friendly solution for the community.