SANTA ELENA CLOUD FOREST RESERVE

SANTA ELENA CLOUD FOREST RESERVE (individuals)

Location: Monteverde County, Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. A Community Managed Preserve

What is the personal history of the key advocates of this project?

Monteverde Public High School Board of Directors (Junta Administradora del Colegio Técnico de Santa Elena de Monteverde):  This high school, was a technical high school oriented to agriculture and farming. They owned a piece of land of 180 hectares (540 acres) for the destination of agricultural training in the school. The land was abandoned because of climate conditions (rain 11 months of the year) made almost impossible to do farming. This land was owned by the Ministry of Agriculture of Costa Rica, to be used as technical and practical field for the Monteverde Agricultural High School.  Years 1980 to 1990.

Asociación de Desarrollo Comunal de Monteverde. Is the Monteverde Community Development Association. Is an NGO with major stakeholders of the community. Emiliano Arguedas and Ramiro González were the managers of the NGO at the beginning.

Fernando Valverde. He was the former director of High School, who thought of the idea of creating a “preserve”, instead of the “agriculture land” in the farm. He is a very active community activist and entrepreneur.

Asociación VIDA. Is an NGO base in San José, Costa Rica. Made through many of his members and affiliates, the project proposal, project implementation, fundraising locally and internationally through Canadian NGO’s, coordinates with volunteers the construction of the infrastructure, road of access, visitors center, preserve design and trails.Their involved started in 1991 to 1993.

Adolfo Rojas Breedy. Founder of Asociación VIDA, and was its General Director for 1990, 1991 and1992 when the project was executed. He heard from former VIDA’s volunteer who lives in Monteverde, about the land the High School owned and its former directors idea.  He gave shape to the idea, conceive the idea of how to execute the project to create the preserve, convince the Community of Monteverde about the importance of project, and decided to make the project a reality, coordinating all efforts between stake-holders, did the fundraising locally and internationally, coordinated the project execution, construction and initial operation.

What is the institutional history and arrangements of this project?

Several of the project proposals were written between 1990 to July of 1991. Finally, in July of 1991 the project was approved to be executed by Asociación VIDA and its international partners, and the Monteverde Community Stake-holders. The project was finished and inaugurated in February 24, 1992.

The 180 hectares farm was owned by the Ministry of Agriculture, and give to the Agriculture – Technical High School Farm as a field for the students- teachers to practice farming techniques.  Later on when the project of creating a preserve was approved by High School Board of Directors,  Adolfo Rojas Breedy through Asociación VIDA, did lobbying in the Government to change “legal status” of the farm, to “public preserve” managed by Board of Directors of the High School of Santa Elena de Monteverde.  Later on, the High School s curriculum and objectives were change from an “agriculture-technical” high school to an “agro-tourism” high school.

The community through the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Monteverde did major fundraising in local business and citizens; local hotels provided accommodation and food to visitors and people participating in the project development and implementation. Major lobbying was undertaken to make the Costa Rican Congress approve in the National Budget, a grant for building the gravel road to the preserve. Only a mud road existed before, who made un-reachable the preserve during 11 months of the year. For February of 1992 the grant was given and the first gravel road was built.

What is the ethical / conceptual history and motivation behind the project?

To preserve the cloud forest. Turn land that was given for a farming land to a preserve. Change the thinking of a community that was used to “milk cows” in grasslands that were rain and cloud forests, to a win-win situation preserving the cloud forest.

Actually, the Santa Elena Reserve comprises an area of 310 hectare or 765 acres, and together with the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, the Arenal Conservation Area and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve constitute a contiguous conservation area of approximately 28,000 hectares or 69,000 acres. Plans are underway to raise funds to buy and restore adjacent farmlands for future inclusion into the Santa Elena Reserve. Conservation efforts in the area are concentrating on establishing forest corridors radiating from the central conservation area down to lower altitudes as many of the forest fauna, such as the Resplendent Quetzal, American Pumas, Jaguars, Ocelots, and Red Brocket Deer require large territories in which to forage and breed.

VIDA is cooperating with the Santa Elena, part of the goal of the reserve is work with local schools in educational classes and educational visits to the area, it is important to increase the relation of the community to protect the area. Costa Ricans and foreigners volunteer help for make true this process. Mainly the work is focusing for trails construction and maintenance, sign construction, interpretation and teaching English. The volunteers spent around 8 weeks and stay in the community with local families as part of them. By staying in the homes of local Costa Rican families, volunteers provide some additional income for the duration of their stay. For education, the locals see learning English as an excellent tool to help themselves prepare for a better treating of their visitors.

VIDA collaborate at the volunteers with the coordination of the local transportation and coordination with the reserve related to the accommodation with the host family, works and details. Accommodation once they arrive at the country and previous to their departure. Volunteers will cover their personal expenses and personal insurance and extra costs as taxes ($26) once their leave the country.

For more information please contact us at: volunteering@vida.org