Conservation: Costa Rica Leading By Example after Deforestation Report

Costa Rica has yet again proved itself as one of the most sustainable countries in the world. I was very impressed to read this week that Costa Rica has increased its rainforest cover from a quarter of the total country's surface in the 1980s to over 54% today. This alone is a fantastic statistic, but it becomes even better when presented alongside the following. Costa Rica has also managed to, in the same time, increase food production per person by 26%.

Forested hills in Costa Rica
photo by Dennis Tang, license, no changes made

This information has been presented after the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released their latest State of the Worlds Forests report (SOFO). This report focuses on the relationship between forests and agriculture, and methods in which countries can slow their deforestation rate. 

The new report highlighted many, some quite worrying, statistics which generally demonstrated agriculture as being the main cause of global deforestation, with new commercial farmland being the cause of 70% of deforestation in Latin America. Another important statistic presented in the report states how between 2000 and 2010, tropical countries had a net forest loss of 7 million hectares a year, whilst gaining 6 million hectares in farmland every year.


The major causes of deforestation as presented in SOFO:
This FAO report broke down net deforestation as follows:

Large, Commercial Agriculture: 40%
Subsistence Farming: 33%
Infrastructure: 10%
Urban Expansion: 10%
Mining: 7%

But these figures varied hugely. As mentioned above, commercial agriculture accounted for 70% in Latin America, though interestingly just ~33% in Africa.


So Costa Rica have done brilliantly in the last 30-odd years to gain so much forest cover whilst increasing food security in the country. But Costa Rica are luckier than most. Being a relatively small country, it is an easier task increasing forest cover and food security simultaneously. I'm certainly not taking anything away from them though. They noticed a suddenly booming industry in eco-tourism, so took advantage of their outstanding natural biodiversity, whilst increasing agricultural output with better land planning and legal frameworks. Good on them!

Farmland in Costa Rica
photo by Megan, license, no changes made

I can only hope countries and governments act upon this new SOFO report, and begin to slow deforestation while ensuring the people are fed and the country continues to produce agricultural output.

I will now leave you with some quotes from members of FAO, charities and organisations regarding the report, as well as a few links where I got my information from so you can read more on this topic if you want to.


"Food security can be achieved through agricultural intensification and other measures such as social protection, more than through the expansion of agricultural areas at the expense of forests,"
"Our analysis shows that in the past 25 years, there have been more than 20 countries who have maintained or actually increased their forest cover while, at the same time, making progress towards food security."
"The message is that you do not have to deforest in order to achieve food security"
- Eva Muller, Director of the Forestry Policy and Resources Division of the FAO.

"Agricultural development doesn't necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers' productivity and competitiveness"
- Octavio Ramirez, FAO Costa Rica director

Some links for further reading:
IPS News article
Telesurtv article article
BBC News article

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found this conservation post interesting.


  1. Costa rica is a beautiful country one just needs to be aware of the deadly fer-de-lance snake.


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