A tropical rainforest for all

A tropical rainforest for all

Costa Rica
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Ours is a conservation project; it preserves a tropical rainforest (a biological reserve) where several endangered species live. It is a social business because families of the rural community where the project is located are deeply involved in this enterprise as producers and providers of sustainable goods and services.

About You
Organization:
Ceibas y Almendros
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Ana Victoria

Last Name

Wo Ching

Country

, XX

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Ceibas y Almendros

Organization Phone

(506) 8840-8567

Organization Address

La Unión del Toro, distrito La Virgen, cantón Sarapiquí, Costa Rica

Organization Country

, XX

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

Innovation
What makes your innovation unique?

Our innovation can be considered unique because:
a) It is a joint conservation project: In the region there are no other organizations that preserve the rainforest and at the same time allow all its members to be co-owners of the forested property. People who join us –by purchasing a share– instantly become co-owners of the “Ceibas y Almendros” private biological reserve and will have the life-long possibility of establishing their own sustainable projects (ecotourism, permaculture, etc.) within the property, taking a vacation in the reserve and handing down the shares to relatives and other third parties.

b) The original owner of the property is a current co-owner. He was selling this forested land few years ago because he needed to do so. The members of the organization bought the property and offered him to stay as a co-owner. He is a valuable member of the community because of his vast ethnobotanical knowledge and environmental leadership in the region. In this way, the project promotes a better distribution of forested lands threatened by the expanding agricultural frontier, because they will remain in hands of groups of people with environmental conscience.

c) Calm water trails. There are no companies in the country that offer kayaking tours in calm waters; we plan to promote the reserve’s canoeing trails and kayak trails for aquatic exploration in the forest interior.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
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.

How many people will your project serve annually?

101‐1000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

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.

Sustainability
What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

Partnerships with established NGOs, businesses, and the Ministry of Environment could be critical to our success. NGOs in the region can understand the needs and concerns of the Sarapiquí community, they are well known and can help us work better with the community. We can also work with businesses that want to implement a corporate social responsibility program in the area (i.e. their employees can spend vacations in the reserve and use the goods and services provided by community members), since they can provide more employment opportunities for the local inhabitants.
The Ministry of Environment can help us patrolling the area, since there are illegal loggers and poachers in Sarapiquí.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Ceibas y Almendros is a corporation created in Costa Rica, which has 100 emitted shares. This corporation owns a private 87-hectares biological reserve. Each person who owns a share not only collaborates in the preservation of the rainforest within the property, he or she becomes a member of Ceibas y Almendros and also a co-owner of the private biological reserve and its facilities.

Each member can establish a sustainable productive project within the property, giving back a very small percentage to the corporation. This capital will be used for the ecolodge maintenance, purchasing of clean technologies and others.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The governments in Latin America do not provide enough funds for the conservations of our valuable natural resources. Many local inhabitants of rural communities next to protected areas have been selling their properties because they are in a bad financial situation. One day, after witnessing sad environmental news, Paulina Mata, Luis Rodríguez and I discussed about what could we do in order to provide a real solution for people in those communities. We analyzed successful environmental conservation project cases. Many hours led us to conclude that one of the best solutions for conservation is purchasing natural areas big enough to provide wildlife species with food, water and shelter. However, we wanted to work with a model that would allow original landowners to keep their land.

We then analyzed what high-biodiversity regions have been suffering from social, economic and environmental pressures. The town of La Unión del Toro in the North Caribbean region of Costa Rica has all those problems. This region is widely known: it is one of the few places where the Great Green Macaw lives, because there are Almendro trees and because it is part of the Agua y Paz (Water and Peace) Biosphere Reserve. We planned a field trip to the zone, after a year without visiting it, and we realized that many locals have sold their lands. Pineapple and rice plantations were destroying the forests; there were many properties that fell under the unscrupulous hands of illegal loggers. After many weeks of exploration, we found a property within the Maquenque Wildlife Refuge and the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor: Mr. Virgilio Mena’s land. He needed to sell the property but he have just met potential buyers who did not want to preserve the forest that he has inherited from his ancestors.
That single visit to his land was enough to show us the ecological importance of this mature forest.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

My fascination for nature guided me to study Biology and Natural Resources Protection and Management. Throughout all my life I have met visionary people, worried about the status of the environment. From them, I learned important facts and my love for nature was strengthened even more. I joined two of them –Paulina Mata and Luis Rodríguez–, together we started Ceibas y Almendros in order to preserve a fragile tropical rainforest which is home to many diverse living beings.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Web Search (e.g., Google or Yahoo)

If through another source, please provide the information