US debt helps Costa Rica save planet

November 30, 2010

U.S. funds from a debt-for-nature swap program will go towards five Costa Rican forest conservation initiatives, per an agreement reached on Monday. The fund will distribute a total of $513,966 to important ecological areas, mostly in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone.

A steering committee allotted $140,000 for environmental education programs in communities that surround the La Amistad International Park, near Costa Rica’s border with Panama. An additional $120,000 is to be spent on planting fruit trees around the park in order to strengthen La Amistad’s biological corridor.

The Corcovado Foundation in the Osa Peninsula, also in the Southern Zone, will receive $117,000 to promote rural community tourism. The money is to encourage local tourism operators to participate in efforts to recover forests in the area.

The Osa Peninsula will also benefit from a $116,000 payment that will be used to train farmers who live near the Amistosa Biological Corridor in sustainable practices that will help conserve water supplies and local forests. The area is an important passageway for migrating wildlife.

Another $30,000 will be funneled to a sustainable development association in the Southern Zone’s Buenos Aires. The money will be used to plant trees that will help protect the Pococí aquifer, which supplies clean water to the area.

Five projects were chosen for debt forgiveness funding. Of 83 proposals, 63 were submitted from Costa Rica. The committee will select additional projects to receive funds in 2011.

The funding represent the first time money was allotted under Costa Rica’s debt-for-nature swap agreement with the U.S. Under the accord, the U.S. pardoned a portion of Costa Rica’s debt as long as the money is invested in forest conservation.

The U.S. pardoned $21.2 million in Costa Rican debt in a deal that will eventually generate $27 million for forest conservation projects over the next 14 years, after factoring inflation.

The fund’s oversight committee includes environmental groups The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation International Foundation, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, Earth University in the Caribbean province of Limón, and Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas.

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