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Not Reaping the Fruits: What Plantain Farmers in Costa Rica Can Teach Us About the Inconsistent Links Between Access to Ecosystem Services & Well-Being

December 18, 2017 |

This article was originally published on Stockholm Resilience Centre


  • Increases in the production of ecosystem services are often not evenly distributed and increases in ecosystem services may not improve well-being of those without access to them
  • A case study of plantain farmers in Costa Rica reveals how they struggle to reap the benefits of their labour
  • The paper presents a framework to identify how different types of access allow people benefit from ecosystem services

“Irony is the form of paradox and paradox is what is good and great at the same time, the German poet Friedrich Schlegel once said. Tell that to plantain farmers in the Talamanca mountains of the Bribri Indigenous Territory in Costa Rica.

In this region, one of the poorest in the country, a few thousand farmers, produce over half of the plantains in Costa Rica. But they receive limited benefits from their work. The fruit is sold to both national and international markets but, Bribri producers have little choice but to sell through middlemen who control the transportation route to the main markets, about six hours away in the capital city of San Jose. That forces the farmers not only to sell for a lower price (given that there are few buyers compared to many sellers giving middlemen an undue advantage to determine the sale price) but also accept pretty much anything else the middlemen require. One of these requirements is to shift from traditional to conventional farming.

In the traditional system, plantain’s are farmed using manual labour and simple, affordable tools such as machetes. Pests are controlled by managing shade to prevent their proliferation. Conventional farming on the other hand, requires additional tools and support. Agrochemicals, including organophosphates, are used to keep pests away. These materials not only cost money, but also require knowledge and skills on how to use them safely and efficiently. Enter the middlemen…”

Read on at: Stockholm Resilience Centre.

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