Thinking outside the box to change biodiversity finance in Costa Rica

(c) Giancarlo Pucci/PNUD
(c) Giancarlo Pucci/PNUD

The origins of the COVID-19 pandemic can be traced back to biodiversity loss and we have witnessed the devastating impact it has had across all sectors. Such a crisis also hits the most vulnerable the hardest, with research revealing that women are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. In the face of this crisis, BIOFIN Costa Rica has been working to create solutions that deliver for women and biodiversity.

“The reduction of the biodiversity finance gap, decarbonization, and the route towards a green and resilient economy must place women at the centre of actions. This is the only way to build forward better to face the multiple global challenges,” said Ana Lucía Orozco Rubio, BIOFIN Costa Rica Coordinator.

The +Women +Nature Program of the Ministry of Environment and Energy and BIOFIN Costa Rica is lighting the way, demonstrating that it is possible to achieve this goal while providing a replicable example in the world.

Closing gender economic gaps in biodiversity conservation
second image.png

In 2021 the +Women +Nature Program placed USD $ 1,405,000 in 120 loans for women-led green enterprises through two credit schemes: Women Natura Credit, with our partners Fundecoooperación para el Desarrollo, which allocated 22 loans for rural women in 105,000 USD, and with FONAFIFO at your side / Rural Woman Credit, an allocation of 98 loans for rural women of nearly $1,300,000 USD. 

“With the Natura Woman Credit of Fundecooperación, we have been able to broaden financing opportunities for women entrepreneurs who increase their income with their business while contributing to biodiversity. The alliance with BIOFIN-UNDP has been especially important to help us learn, analyze, rethink, and improve the approach to achieve greater impact. We are grateful for the cooperation and the joint work for women and nature,” highlighted Marianella Feoli, Executive Director of Fundecoooperación para el Desarrollo Sostenible.

Artisanal fishing, sustainable forestry, and agriculture (including livestock cattle farming, pig activities, and poultry production) projects led by women have been improved by the Mujeres Natura credit scheme for commercialization, productive promotion, working capital, infrastructure, and purchase of equipment. 

COVID 19 also left many women unemployed and without access to traditional financing schemes, requiring them to reinvent themselves and undertake new means to generate revenue. Thus, innovation is another critical window of opportunity enabled by the credit scheme for women such as Elizabeth Ramirez who launched Nyura Biocosmetics after she lost her makeup contracts with the Mujeres Natura Credit scheme. 

Another beneficiary of the Women Natura Credit Scheme, Patricia Mora Chavez, explained what it means to her and her business: “I am a resident of El Progreso del Pejibaye in the South of Costa Rica, thanks to the Credito Mujeres Natura I was able to make a project I had come true. I managed to buy eight heifers and build a corral where I produce milk to sell, all while taking care of nature and the animals. The credit has low-interest rates and very accessible payments, which allows me to have money and grow, especially during the pandemic that has affected us so much. I thank Fundecooperación and BIOFIN for giving us these opportunities and I invite other women to come and ask for the loan and make their dreams come true”.

Additionally, FONAFIFO´s Payment for Ecosystem Services Program provided 98 contracts to women by the end of 2021. The total contracts formalized under the payment for ecosystem services running between 2010-2021 owned by women doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year. 

Enhancing public institutions through transforming efforts

The Gender Equality Seal is a public policy instrument that seeks to eliminate the gaps between men and women in the workplace both in public institutions and in the private sector through the transformation of its management model (under the INTE: 38G Standard of the Institute of Technical Standards of Costa Rica (INTECO).

“The results of the certification will ensure better planning and budgeting with an intersectional gender perspective and will increase services and institutional benefits for women in the biodiversity conservation sector,” said Rafaella Sánchez Mora, Gender Specialist BIOFIN-UNDP. 

For the first time in Costa Rica, and in the Latin American and Caribbean region, with the support of the More Women More Natura Program, five institutions from the biodiversity conservation sector are included in this certification process: the National Commission for the Management of Biodiversity (CONAGEBIO), the National Fund for Forest Financing (FONAFIFO) and 03 Protected Areas of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), namely: Cocos Marine Conservation Area (ACMC), Arenal Huetar Norte Conservation Area (ACAHN), and Central Pacific Conservation Area (ACOPAC). 

“This process that we have been developing is an opportunity for the women of Costa Rica and an example to the world. As women in leadership, we can make relevant decisions that create a difference. We are proud that we can reduce gender gaps and strengthen conditions for women who work in biodiversity conservation, especially in the Los Cocos Marine Area, which is a world heritage site. Certification has and will have an invaluable impact,” highlighted Gina Cuza, ACMC Director.

third image.png

+Women +Nature Program is a multidimensional and multisectoral response to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic while restoring nature. The programme strengthens the autonomy of women who work as conservation managers and at the same time, it promotes the reduction of the loss of biodiversity, addressing gender institutional gaps in the management of natural resources and the services they offer, representing solid progress in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by seeking the economic well-being of women, communities, and the country.