A Better World - Volume 4

[ ] 104 A B et t er W or ld Enhancing rural development through the conservation and management of ecosystem services’ resilience — a land use model in Costa Rica Bernal Herrera-Fernández, Deputy Technical Director, Fundecor, Costa Rica; Felipe Carazo, Executive Director, Fundecor, Costa Rica; Alicia Jiménez, Director of Programmes, Earth Charter International Secretariat and EC Centre for ESD, Costa Rica G lobally, ecosystem services are vital for the liveli- hoods of rural communities. Ecosystems, however, suffer various pressures such as the loss of wild- life habitat, aquifer contamination, and soil loss, and the increasing overexploitation of natural resources contin- ues to diminish an ecosystem’s capacity to generate such services. The synergy between these pressures and changes in climate patterns contributes to a progressive reduction in the provision and quality of ecosystem services. Given these challenges, local communities require new approaches that increase their ability to adapt. To do so, we need to move away from normative ways of thinking and acting. A para- digm shift, based on frameworks such as the Earth Charter, and specific action-oriented goals and targets, like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are required. The SDGs propose targets linked to climate action, risk manage- ment, and the sustainable use of biodiversity. Ethical principles and values embodied in the Earth Charter seek to inspire in all people a new sense of global interde- pendence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the entire human family, including future generations. Offering an integral vision for development, the Charter is the result of a global dialogue that started during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), where the summit’s Secretary General, Maurice Strong, proposed that governments identify and commit to principles that would guide humanity’s vision of a sustainable world. It was not possible for the governments’ representatives of the time to agree on a common ethical framework for sustainable development, but civil society followed up on the proposal, generating a largely partici- patory global dialogue process to identify shared values and ethical principles for sustainability in the twenty-first century. This dialogue involved people from various sectors — politicians, scientists, indigenous representatives, reli- gious leaders and youth, among others, from all regions of the world. The drafting process began in 1994, and the Charter was launched in 2000. Since then, thousands of people and organizations have endorsed it and are seeking ways to put the vision into practice. The Foundation for the Development of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range (Fundecor) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to sustainable development, and has incorporated the Earth Charter’s ethical principles into its vision and general policy. Fundecor has been implementing local development models based on forest ecosystems services for over two decades. One such programme is the Sarapiquí Resilience Initiative (SRI), a local landscape-scale develop- ment strategy, whose principal objective is to strengthen community and socio-ecological system capacities to prepare for, and react to, global threats such as climate change, deforestation, and land degradation. Using forest ecosystem services as an organizing concept for various development sectors, the SRI generates improved social and economic benefits based on sustainable management of these services. SRI works in the Huetar Norte region of Costa Rica where the average annual temperature is 27°C and rainfall is 4,000 mm, covering 370,000 ha in 11 counties, of which Sarapiquí (Heredia Province) constitutes approximately 70 per cent of SRI’s total area of influence. Around 78,000 people live in these counties with low indices of social development. The economy is based on small- and large-scale agriculture and livestock production accounting for approximately 40 per cent of the area, with a concentration of services in the District of Puerto Viejo; and with nature tourism as one of these important activities. Tropical moist forest covers some 60 per cent of the territory. Recent studies report that Sarapiquí is highly vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events which, when combined with deficient social development, demand the reinforcement of resilience devel- opment models. SRI combines management strategies at both the farm and landscape scales. The benefits from sustainable forest management and ecosystem services for farm owners as well as for society have been well documented. Now, sustainable forest management and ecosystem payment schemes are used across development sectors and at scale. Such investments include public–private strategies for water conservation; extreme weather events risk management; participatory rural development planning; poverty reduction through farm-based