Costa Rica: Fruits of sustainability and decent work

Costa Rica: Fruits of sustainability and decent work

Agency News

United Nations, Dec 7: Costa Rica is taking the lead in promoting the socially-conscious production of pineapples whilst protecting the environment, thanks to a project supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The Central American country is the world leader in growing the fruit, a business worth more than US$800 million a year.

Costa Rica is also amongst the world´s biggest exporters of pineapples.

From 2000, the country´s pineapple industry — worth US$ 800 million to the national economy — began growing rapidly. Thousands of smallholder farmers earn their livelihoods farming this crop, particularly in the northern and Atlantic regions of the country.

The promotion of best practices is a key objective for Costa Rica’s National Platform for Responsible Pineapple Production and Trade – a project funded and supported by UNDP’s Green Commodities Programme with help from the Netherland’s Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO).

In a new approach, some plantations have adopted socially responsible practices including equal pay for men and women, worker education programmes and agricultural techniques which aim to protect the environment.

In a rural community in the north of Costa Rica, a woman affectionately called “Blanquita” by her coworkers leads a planting team from the Flor Agroindustrias, a business dedicated to pineapple production. Four years ago, they began a process of organisational transformation to implement strategies for socially and environmentally responsible production.

Blanquita, a mother of four, said that during the last year in which she has served as the team’s leader, she had to gain the trust of her colleagues — and now they follow her instructions without any problems. In addition to policies of zero discrimination and equal pay for men and women, her company promotes formal education programmes for its workers.

However, women face difficult conditions in the labour market. Women suffer from higher levels of unemployment (10.8 percent compared with 7 percent for men) and are more largely represented in the informal economy (43.7 percent versus 36 percent of the national total). They also earn less than men (up to 27 percent less in the private sector) and have less access to leadership positions.

With support from UNDP, Costa Rica has introduced this action plan, fostering partnerships to promote production and trade that is responsible, fair, and in line with practices protecting the environment, the community and the general public.

More than 900 people representing big buyers like Dole, Tesco and Walmart, small-scale producers, traders, consumers and civil society helped devise the plan between 2011 and 2014, and now they are committed to working together on rolling it out.

“We want a model of pineapple production where workers are treated fairly, women are able to access leadership positions and are paid the same as their male counterparts, and where production does not contaminate water sources nor harm communities – but rather that the benefits of such production can be enjoyed by as many people as possible,” said Kifah Sasa, UNDP’s Environmental Officer.

This model of responsible production and trade implemented in Costa Rica has been promoted for various crops in Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia and Indonesia. (UNI)