"This project was like throwing a stone in the water and seeing the ripple effects: you see how something very concrete can continue to produce results that completely transcend the Coffee NSP and the NAMA itself."
Throw a stone in the water and see the shockwaves
Xiomara Gonzalez's involvement since June 2018 in the Coffee NSP came about organically because of her work with climate change and coffee within the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
Agriculture and environment: a partnership that didn´t happen by chance
For González, articulating the governing institutions of the sectors involved in the Coffee NAMA, although it was a challenge like any intersectoral initiative, had the advantage that Costa Rica has been working on an agri-environmental approach since the 1970s. Later, the country would develop the system of payments for environmental services (PES), many of which occur on farms or neighboring areas.
In the context of climate change, the Coffee NAMA has been added to a process in which it is becoming increasingly clear that, apart from the absolute protection zones, the country also needs the participation of productive areas in the efforts of conservation, mitigation and adaptation to climate change. An effective way to achieve this is to optimize agricultural practices so that they are instrumental in the efforts typically linked to the environment.
Strengthened technical articulation for sustainable coffee farming
For González, a collateral result of the project was to achieve a more effective articulation between MAG and ICAFE, which has facilitated the transcending of the Coffee NAMA to generate other initiatives.
She describes how rewarding it was to see the technical groups in each region that implemented the knowledge management component were linked and improved the articulation in such a significant way. For her, the work of the technical people in the field, who put technical excellence and the achievement of objectives above their institutional hat, is titanic and she believes it is important to make this aspect visible and known as another positive result. This has led her to trust that this joint work will produce concrete results in future sustainable coffee growing initiatives.
-This project was like throwing a stone in the water and seeing the ripple effects: you see how something very concrete can continue to produce results that completely transcend the Coffee NSP and the NAMA itself.
Is it difficult to achieve an active involvement of the production sector?
For González, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. To address the sector with an attitude of blaming it for all the evils of the environmental crisis will obviously not generate the best response. It is necessary first to measure and be clear about the real responsibility of the sector in the share of emissions and other impacts and then, yes… begin to propose initiatives.
But, and this is fundamental, any initiative must go hand in hand with providing the sector with answers to productivity issues. A producer does not make a living from conservation, and González insists that this is an awareness that must be generated and developed from the environmental "sidewalk".
For this reason, mitigation actions cannot stand alone, but must be accompanied by adaptation actions and work together with the production sector to generate alternatives for better resilience and guarantee their productivity and profitability in climatic conditions that we already know will be adverse.
Coffee and other subsectors
The experience gained by the institutional framework in the Coffee NSP has been key to a more effective approach to future projects for other sub-sectors.
For example, in the Livestock NAMA, not only was the NAMA as such worked on, but it was linked as part of a broader strategy which is the 'Costa Rica Low-Carbon Livestock Strategy 2015-2034', declared to be of public interest.
Finance and academia: key sectors for upcoming NAMAs
These three sectors are, in Gonzalez's opinion, the ones that should be called to the table - as ad-hoc groups - when it comes to proposing other NAMAs.
Finance: many of the changes that producers must implement require technological improvements that cannot be achieved without financing. The financial sector must be involved in these processes so that it can listen to the needs of each subsector and propose financial solutions that can be created to make these changes possible.
Academia: its role is key in the area of research and knowledge transfer to provide innovation to producer sectors and enable their alignment -in technologies and good practices- to environmental goals.