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Individual study: Farmer participation in reforestation incentive programs in the districts of Limoncito, San Vito-Pittier and Sabalito, Canton of Coto Brus, Costa Rica

Published source details

Thacher T., Lee D.R. & Schelhas J.W. (1997) Farmer participation in reforestation incentive programs in Costa Rica. Agroforestry Systems, 35, 269-289


The Costa Rican government has promoted reforestation through several incentive programs with the aim of reducing pressure on remnant forests, decreasing soil erosion and producing enough reforested timber to satisfy the national demand. In 1988 and 1989, respectively, the Forestry Bond Certificate in Advance (CAFa) and the Forestry Development Fund (FDF) were created to provide reforestation grants to farmers of small- and medium-sized farms. This paper reports the results of an analysis to identify reasons for farmer participation in the CAFa and FDF in the Costa Rican Canton of Coto Brus.

A computer modeling approach was used. The data used in the model were gathered through interviews with 243 farmers in the districts of Limoncito, San Vito-Pittier and Sabalito (Coto Brus) in June-August 1994. A total of 114 reforestation program participants (representing 3% of all farms in these districts and 10% of farms with 5 ha or more) were identified, and a random sample of 80 participants was selected. A sample of 163 neighbouring, non-participating farmers who had ownership of at least 5 ha of land was also selected (representing 7% of all farms and 15% of farms of at least 5 ha). The following information was collected:

area (ha) of the farm;

whether the farmer possessed legal land title to at least part of farm;

farmer age;

family on-farm labour days available per hectare;

percent of household income earned from off-farm sources;

total farm net income;

if farmer had 1 year or more of outstanding debt liabilities;

if farmer was visited in past year by agricultural advisor;

if farmer attended workshop or field day about reforestation (prior to program enrollment);

percent of farm with degraded soil as perceived by farmer;

percent of farm with steep slopes as perceived by farmer.

Factors regarding farm characteristics, household income source, and access to agricultural information were significant in explaining farmer participation. Participants generally had larger farms characterized by low labour-intensive, land-extensive agriculture, compared to their non-participating neighbours. The majority of tree-planted land was on less productive, marginal areas. Participants depended to a greater degree on off-farm income. Interaction with the local agricultural advisorary network and attendance at workshops or field days about reforestation had strong positive effects in increasing program enrollment.

Farmers seem to be primarily motivated to participate by short-term and longer term economic and non-economic benefits, rather than long-term economic production objectives.

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