A new project of the Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center (CECOS) aims to protect critical habitat for the endangered Great Green Macaw and other wildlife while also providing sustainable income to local residents.
Since July 2021, CECOS has played an important role in this pioneering and innovative project, which focuses on using the seeds of the mountain almond tree (Dipteryx panamensis) for commercial purposes. The project consists of organizing and accompanying a group of interested people who will be in charge of the processes to take advantage of the tree’s seeds until they can be commercialized.
The mountain almond tree — which is also known here as the “tree of life” — is a keystone species that provides habitat and sustenance for a variety of wildlife. In particular, this majestic tree is critical to the survival of the Great Green Macaw, since the fruit is one of its main food sources, making up 80% of the bird’s diet during the reproductive season. Furthermore, 90% of the Great Green Macaw’s nests are built in these trees. Prior to receiving governmental protection in 1996, the trees were frequently cut for lumber due to their valuable wood, which greatly decreased the macaws’ population.
It is hoped that this new project will become a means of income for those involved and a way to conserve the area’s forests. The almond tree project will be carried out in the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor (San Carlos and Sarapiquí). This project aims to help communities in several ways, including:
- Avoiding economic dependence on tourism, since the crisis in the tourism sector due to COVID-19 has greatly affected the area, which is why alternative employment and income-generating activities are sought.
- Ensuring that the inhabitants of the area understand the importance and possible uses of the natural resources they have in their communities, and that they become administrators of these resources, generating economic income and at the same time helping to preserve the environment.
- Making commercial use of the mountain almond tree seed as a viable alternative to protect the almond tree, promote its cultivation, and utilize its seeds, as well as contribute to the sustainable development of the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor.
CECOS is the executor of the project, and Costa Rica Regenerativa (CRR), through the University for International Cooperation (UCI), is the donor. Both will be in charge of accompanying the process, promoting, publicizing, and searching for options to market the almonds in the national and international markets. The direct implementation of the project will be carried out by Coope Cureña in Los Angeles de Sarapiquí.
Finally, it is thanks to CRR, UCI, and CECOS that Coope Cureña will have a collection center, a solar dryer and a processing plant — all of which will be located in the community of Los Angeles de Sarapiquí — for the collection, drying, extraction, and roasting of the almonds.