Costa Rica has been a pioneer in implementing innovative solutions to conservation, such as the national Payment for Ecosystem Service (PES) Program. The country was one of the first tropical countries to not only halt its net deforestation rate, but actually reverse the trend. Costa Rica is one of the first countries to aim for carbon neutrality, which they plan to achieve through a variety of different actions, including the implementation of the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) in the coffee and livestock sectors.
However, rapid urbanization has resulted in degradation and strained water resources. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Greater Metropolitan Area that makes up the watershed for the capital, San José (GAM in Spanish), which provides water for hundreds of thousands of people as well as some of the country’s biggest industries. Therefore, it is critical that the watershed preserves and restores water catchment areas to ensure water for the capital’s people and economy.
The Need for LS
In order to assure the protection of these water resources, public and private groups in the region have established a public-private water fund, Agua Tica, which implements restoration and conservation actions in the GAM. Agua Tica has rigorous tools to determine high-impact areas for investment and has made positive gains towards watershed protection, including monitoring systems to evaluate their impact. However, Agua Tica’s project monitoring, does not yet track the landscape’s overall sustainability. Applying the LandScale assessment framework will allow the water fund to advance how they track progress at the complete landscape level towards improving socio-economic and environmental outcomes (e.g. water quality), and also towards key governance outcomes needed to achieve positive outcomes at a landscape level governance (e.g. expanding participation in the water fund).
LandScale also serves as a way for Agua Tica to credibly communicate their achievements to existing funders, and to attract new members or investors. Individual members of Agua Tica, such as bottling companies or public utility companies, can also use LandScale to showcase the results of their actions.
Additionally, by using LandScale to define common goals and milestones, Agua Tica can ensure that the actions of different programs, policies and other initiatives in the pilot landscape are working in tandem to drive ambitious change. This would give landscape stakeholders the ability to ensure that the many projects and activities that have specific, targeted sustainability goals, such as shifting to more sustainable coffee production practices, add up to tangible landscape-scale improvements.
LS Pilot Landscapes
The pilot landscape in Costa Rica will be a portion of the GAM, including the upstream subwatersheds located in the northwest. The area has a mix of different land uses, including cloud forest (the pilot area borders two national parks: Volcan Poas and Braulio Carillo), pastures for milk production, coffee plantations and several minor crops. The landscape provides water for the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of San José metropolitan area, as well as for key local industries, including the beverage sector, electricity production, and others.
The LandScale pilot will produce a rigorous, verified assessment that will show the impact of Agua Tica’s activities at scale. Given that Agua Tica is not the only actor working towards sustainability, the LandScale pilot activities will also seek to link Agua Tica to other initiatives in the landscape, such as coffee sustainability programs (including the NAMA for the coffee sector), and the NAMA for the livestock sector or Costa Rica’s PES program. This way, products produced sustainably within the landscape could be marketed with a credible assurance of their positive impact on the landscape, while also safeguarding the watershed’s hydrological resources surrounding the GAM through public-private partnership.
This would not only support Agua Tica’s goals to expand their reach and work with new landscape stakeholders, but also create a common framework multiple initiatives could use to harness diverse individual actions translate towards common, large-scale goals.
Support for the landscape pilot in Costa Rica is funded with resources generously provided by the International Climate Initiative.