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IDB's Social Entrepreneurship Program approves $615,000 for organic farmers in Costa Rica

The Inter-American Development Bank today announced the approval of $615,000 in financing for a project that will help farmers in indigenous communities in Costa Rica reap greater economic benefits from their organic cacao and banana plantations.

The resources from the Special Fund for Microenterprise Financing established by the European Community and administered by the IDB will support the program and its executing agency, the Association of Small Producers of Talamanca (APPTA), which works with some 1,500 farmers in poor and isolated areas in the southeastern province of Limón.

APPTA, whose members maintain their ancestral farming methods, recently won a United Nations prize for its success in combining social and economic development programs with the conservation of biodiversity.

Most people in APPTA’s area belong to either the Brisbris or the Cabecar indigenous groups, who still follow the tradition of growing cacao in the shade of banana plants and lumber and fruit-producing trees. Nearly 2,000 hectares farmed by APPTA members have organic certification. The association has also obtained a “fair trade” certification.

The financing approved by the IDB under its Social Entrepreneurship Program includes a loan for the equivalent of $415,000 and a grant for the equivalent of $200,000. APPTA will contribute the equivalent of $100,000 to the project.

The loan will help APPTA establish a microcredit program for farmers in Talamanca, as well as to invest in warehousing and logistics facilities. The resources will also provide APPTA working capital for its marketing efforts.

Grant resources will be used to help farmers raise the productivity and quality of their organic crops, as well as to strengthen APPTA’s administrative, marketing and managerial capacities so it may provide its services more efficiently.

Under the project, farmers who work with the association will have access to financing and technical assistance to boost crop yields. In the case of cacao, the focus will be on fighting crop diseases and improving plant genetic quality using environmentally sound techniques.

Farmers will also be trained to improve plantation management and the handling of harvested banana bunches. This will help them export the whole fruit rather than banana purée, which fetches lower prices.

The project approved by the IDB complements other programs in Talamanca supported by Costa Rican and foreign organizations, including the Dutch government, the World Bank and Conservation International.

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