Farmer participation in reforestation incentive programs in 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.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at:


Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust