Costa Rica

Landscape Story

Panoramic view of the area of the Jesus Maria Watershed, the area where the project of the Satoyama initiative will be implemented. The total area of the watershed covers 352.8 km ² of high topographic profile and elongated shapes starting in the mountains range Monte del Aguacate.

Panoramic view of the area of the Jesus Maria Watershed, the area where the project of the Satoyama initiative will be implemented.

The target landscape selected as the focus of COMDEKS activities in Costa Rica is the Rio Jesus Maria watershed, located in the Pacific Region of Costa Rica. Spanning across 35,200 hectares, the region is a diverse landscape comprised of forests, coffee and fruit trees, mangroves, pastures, plantations, water bodies, and urban areas. Although a biodiverse, rich, and productive landscape, over time, the Rio Jesus Maria watershed region has lost the majority of its forest cover, and is subsequently experiencing decreases in environmental biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and water availability. Exacerbated by poor road design and a dearth of vegetative covering, deforestation is leading to greater erosion, acceleration of river currents, and flooding. Fresh water scarcity during the dry season and unsustainable agricultural practices are putting increasing pressure on both the environment and the local communities.

Biological Impact

Approximately 30% of the target landscape is forest cover, composed mostly of secondary forest, teak plantations, and coffee and fruit trees. There are no longer any natural or primary forests throughout the watershed aside from approximately 150 hectares of mangrove forest at the mouth of the Rio Jesus Maria. Another 40% of the land is comprised of pastures and thickets, and the remaining 30% is urban areas and melon plantations. The upper basin of the target landscape consists mostly of small coffee plantations where communities jointly organize production, creating a diverse ecosystem of coffee trees, citrus, trees planted for lumber, as well as some animals and chickens. In the middle basin, fruit is grown, including mange, avocado, and sappota. This portion of the landscape is also home to various birds and small mammals which coexist within the context of the commercially grown fruit production. The lower region is most notable for the unique estuary and mangrove ecosystem, the majority of which been razed in recent years. Deforestation, particularly along the river banks, has led to increased soil erosion, flooding, changes in the riparian currents, and salinization of the soil. Consequently, the area is facing increasing degradation, as well as pressure from reductions in freshwater availability.

Socioeconomic Impact

The target landscape area occupies 14 separate loosely populated districts within San Ramon, San Mateo, Esparza, Heredia, and Garabito counties. The region is characterized by high levels of cooperation and coordination through a wide array of social groups, community farms and coops, and even various local sports teams which collectively create a strong sense of community and empowerment on a local level. Furthermore, human development levels are considered moderate to high, so extreme poverty and food insecurity are not problematic in the region. The main economic activity in the region in agriculture, with most production focused on coffee, rice, sugarcane, and fruit production. Nevertheless, there is concern that the environmental threat to the Rio Jesus Maria watershed will have adverse socioeconomic consequences. Namely, deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices have led to increases in flooding and substantial pressure on freshwater availability. Furthermore, poor road design and steep slopes without vegetative cover increase the erosive process, exacerbating the problem.

Baseline Assessment

In December 2013, a baseline assessment was undertaken in order to evaluate the state of the landscape and to identify key issues. The assessment was carried out through a series of consultation meetings with local community leaders, as well as field visits throughout the region. Three workshops were held with local community members from throughout the watershed, during which a total of 105 local community leaders were invited to rate the state of the region using the SEPLS Resilience Indicators in order to gain input from the community. The results from the consultation process and the draft landscape strategy were then presented in a final workshop with 40 people from the watershed area. The baseline assessment identified the need to improve the dissemination of scientific knowledge at the decision-making level and at the community level, in order to improve the resilience and recuperation of the degraded resources, to take special measures that could ensure the sustainability of the productive activities at the local and regional levels, and to promote the use of new technologies.

Landscape Strategy

The overall long term objective of the COMDEKS Landscape Strategy is the development of sustainable socio-economic production activities within the Rio Jesus Maria watershed through information sharing, capacity building, and recuperation of the natural landscape. The COMDEKS Country Programme in Costa Rica seeks to achieve the following outcomes:


  1. Land degradation in the target landscape comprehensively addressed through interventions that prevent soil erosion and sediment transport to water bodies.
  2. Forest cover throughout the watershed increased through mechanisms such as payment for environmental services and strengthening of the protected areas system.
  3. Sustainable agricultural production practices established in the socio-ecological production landscape, including local coffee production in the upper basin, fruit growing in the middle basin, and integrated pastoral and agro-sylvo-pastoral in the middle and lower basin.
  4. Scientific, traditional knowledge and technological innovation increased, strengthen and shared between producers, farm owners and the general public.
  5. Local and regional organizations strengthened in their land-use and planning capacity at the landscape level.

Country Project

The COMDEKS project seeks to bring about community development, learning, and knowledge sharing by making small grants available to community organizations to help them maintain more resilient socio-ecological production landscapes. The types of community projects that will be supported by COMDEKS in the Rio Jesus Maria Watershed include soil conservation efforts and tree planting campaigns, the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices in coffee and fruit production, for example through programs focused on education and technology transfer, payments for environmental services diversification of production systems, seed banks, maintenance and collection of plant genetic resources. Projects could include also activities aimed at the creation of a database of technical and scientific information related to the watershed, as well as activities aimed at the recovery and recording of traditional knowledge and practices. Finally, proposed activities could include strengthening of interagency coordination among entities working for the restoration of the watershed, and the creation of a Rio Jesus Maria Watershed Committee on Sustainable Management to support the processes of watershed restoration.

To learn more, please download the COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy (in Spanish) for Costa Rica here.


Project Contact

Mr. Eduardo Mata
National Coordinator
Phone:+ (506) 2961544 , ext. 2137
Fax:+ (506) 2961545

UNDP Apartado Postal 4540-1000 , San Jose , LAC


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