Values are practically our middle name

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Costa Rica was once one of the most deforested countries in the world. Today it is a pioneer in reforestation, forest management, and forest protection policies. This Operations Evaluation Department re-port describes the evolution of Costa Rican forest policies since the 1950s, and focuses on internal and external influences, particularly those of the World Bank.

The main change in Costa Rican land use since 1950 has been the transformation of forests into pastures and farmland. The predominant vision of development and economic growth was linked with agro-export production, which supported the expansion of agriculture and cattle ranching. In the 1980s, however, Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) reduced the profitability of agriculture and cattle ranching in marginal forest lands. SAPs, along with Costa Rican policies that created special conservation areas and promoted reforestation and forest management, have significantly reduced rates of deforestation.

This evolution of Costa Rica’s forest policies would have been impossible without a strong system of governmental and nongovernmental organizations capable of adapting to new situations. The forest sector in Costa Rica has evolved from an inactive sector without private organizations, technology, or specialized education, to a proactive sector with multiple organizations that lobby effectively for forest sector measures. The Costa Rican government contributed to the evolution of several private forest sector associations. Many new public sector agencies were developed to handle forest issues, often in creative ways. Contrary to the command-and-control structure that typifies many government agencies, the government now works to facilitate private sector participation in and responsibility for forest management.

Costa Rica may not yet have a completely integrated forest sector model, but it does provide a framework that may inspire other countries to innovate. However, all countries must consider their own conditions when adopting new policies and implement reforms at their own pace.