We support innovative ideas for sustainable solutions through training, advisory and financing.
An Opportunity to Work Close to Family
Alejandro Chacón Castillo is a young man from Tarrazú, in the Los Santos region, who barely finished primary school. While many of the people in his community leave for the capital city in search of job opportunities, Alejandro decided to stay and create opportunities in his town through his undertaking, Finca Integral Lago Los Ángeles.
He started his project three years ago as an idea for turning rural community tourism into an entrepreneurial model. Alejandro started by raising trout on his family’s farm and offering hiking and fishing, but the farm lacked a place for people to eat.
Searching the Internet, he found Fundecooperación, an organization that provided him the financial solution he needed to set up a restaurant for the visitors to his business.
“With Fundecooperación’s loan, I was finally able to build a restaurant on the farm where our customers can fish and ask for their trout to be cooked or eat something after hiking on the trails that I marked myself with patience and hard work. I made everything here with my own hands,” Alejandro affirmed.
With Fundecooperación’s help, Alejandro also started the paperwork for all the permits needed to formally operate his business.
This Tarrazú resident has a dream for the future: being able to share his experience with other entrepreneurs. He also wants to create job sources with his business so that many young people like himself don’t have to leave the Los Santos region and their families in order to have dignified work.
A Heroine against Climate Change
Catalina Molina Bustamante is a visionary who has the good fortune of living out her dream every day: protecting whales and dolphins and ensuring the preservation of their ecosystem.
Ten years ago, a group of students got together to create a foundation. Still hard at work are five of those 20+ people, including Catalina, who today is the director of Keto Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting the responsible use of coastal marine ecosystems.
At first, Catalina, today a graduated biologist, sold ice cream with her companions to pay for the legal paperwork needed to create the foundation. Her work now speaks for itself, and her task of helping marine systems has the support of Fundecooperación.
“Funds are always limited, so every day we are on the lookout for partnerships and people interested in achieving this positive environmental impact. My project participated in Fundecooperación’s call and was one of the initiatives evaluated for the Adaptation Fund. When it was approved, we entered the country program Adapta2+, which has made it possible to concretely implement our ideas,” Catalina commented.
In addition to the financial assistance Catalina received for her project, Fundecooperación has also helped with logistics, providing training for her to carry out the initiative she leads.
Today, the project “Building Bridges towards Climate Change” has the tools for initiating concrete actions, specifically in Ballena Bay, the community selected by the Keto Foundation.
Some of the lines of work being implemented with Fundecooperación’s help are coastal restoration and reforestation, in addition to the design of rainwater collection and distribution systems. The idea is to have prototypes to capture rainwater for use in activities where potable water is not required.
Catalina has received a UN award for women’s leadership in climate change adaptation in Latin America. For her, the most satisfying part of this achievement is the confirmation that concrete actions can be carried out to tackle the planet’s environmental challenges.
The Micro-Mill that Employs the Community
The Chacón Cubillo family, owner of the Las Lajas Ecological Coffee Mill in Sabanilla, Alajuela, went through a rough patch that lasted several years and were not able to get ahead, their dreams of creating a micro-mill and exporting coffee almost forgotten.
The family was almost bankrupt, having had to sell part of its family property in order to survive. “We were broke; we didn’t have any money and we sold off part of the land,” recounted Oscar Chacón.
“We wanted to create this mill project to get ahead, but nobody wanted to lend us money, since we didn’t qualify for a traditional bank loan. You can’t simply make the same shoe fit everyone, and that was what was happening. The banks didn’t understand our business; it didn’t get past their desk, and the only thing they were doing was asking us for thousands of papers, something we didn’t have,” mentioned Francisca Cubillo.
Francisca set about looking for other financing solutions and found Fundecooperación’s Customized Credit program.
“Fundecooperación literally put its boots on and went into the farm; that surprised us. They wanted to understand our business, find out the best way to invest the money, and they offered us the Customized Credit program. For all that, we’re going to be grateful to ‘Funde’ for the rest of our lives,” says Francisca.
The Las Lajas Ecological Coffee Mill, which started out with two people, now impacts 20 families that depend entirely on the mill’s operation and has customers in Taiwan, South Korea, China and the U.S. In addition, it went from producing 60 bushels a year to collecting 5,500 bushels a year.
“Imagine, how were we going to sell all the effort that my father, may he rest in peace, put into this land!” said Oscar.
For this family, there’s a before and after for the Fundecooperación loan, since this project only exists because of the help they received.
““We will always be grateful to Fundecooperación, because they believed in us; they had a business vision together with our family… And that’s what it all comes down to, that you do the impossible to help your family get ahead,” said Oscar.
A Garden and a Dream of Producing without Chemicals
Her love for the land and seeing it produce because of her efforts are the main reasons that motivate Isabel Batista Sandi, whose greatest desire was to see her garden, located in Lepanto, Puntarenas, grow. That’s why she’s focusing on starting new crops, and planting avocado trees is the idea she’s been tossing around in her mind.
Isabel lives on her father-in-law’s land, and there she has a piece of land she decided to put into production approximately two years ago, an idea that has germinated thanks to Fundecooperación’s help. In that space representing passion, effort and satisfaction, she plants tomatoes, bell peppers, chives, lettuce, mustard and several varieties of chili peppers, among many other products.
Her main customer is a nearby reserve that provides accommodation for foreign and domestic tourists; it buys part of her produce to feed its guests. Her produce is also famous in the community, so her neighbors are loyal buyers.
Fundecooperación came into her life just at the right time to work the land. The resources Isabel has access to are scarce, and she’s located in a dry area where it rains little and there are water shortages.
“I don’t have any money to invest in inputs, seeds, or the development of organic fertilizer – in short, everything that’s needed. That was why I went looking for help at the agricultural center, and it was through them that I learned about Fundecooperación and received specific resources for maintaining my organic garden,” Isabel recounted.
Plastic mesh for protecting her crops, volcanic rock, tools and a water storage tank for irrigation, vital in such a dry area, are some of the resources this producer has received through the agricultural center and thanks to Fundecooperación.
When Fundecooperación approached Isabel’s project to learn about it and assess if she was a candidate for receiving help with inputs, she had a couple of pepper and tomato plants. After the help arrived, the garden grew; she expanded her crops and ventured into other vegetables, since the new conditions made it possible.
Isabel dreams of keeping bees in her small enterprise in the future and of being able to continue supplying her community with 100% organic produce, cultivated with passion and respect for the environment.
Undertaking in Livestock
Lázaro Garay has gone through a radical change, leaving his full-time job in construction to dedicate himself to his livestock enterprise in Juanilama, San Carlos.
Lázaro decided to start his business because he saw it as a project for improving, taking advantage of the land he owns, and because he really likes dairy cattle. When he found out about Fundecooperación, he saw an opportunity to put his idea into action; Fundecooperación gave him a loan that he used to buy cows for dedicating part of his time to dairy farming.
“I would never have been able to start my own business if it hadn’t been for the loan Fundecooperación gave me, since I didn’t qualify for loans from the traditional banking system. The banks would never have loaned me the money, and the truth is, I didn’t have my own money for buying the dairy cattle, either,” affirmed Lázaro.
Lázaro has an advantage in that the local association buys his milk, so his sales are assured. His goal is to have more cows in the future in order to dedicate himself 100% to his business; he also hopes to produce cheese again at some time.
Starting his own business has been quite an adventure for this San Carlos entrepreneur. He’s gone through difficult times, but he says he’s happy and motivated because he has the support and advisory and because he loves livestock. “Being able to work the farm makes me feel good and fulfilled.” But it’s essential for him to be very organized with his accounts and keep control over everything, especially now that the value-added tax is in effect. “You have to be up-to-date to stay competitive,” he says.
Back to the roots
María Victoria Rojas, known to all as “Doña Ney”, is a Cabécar producer from the community of El Progreso in Talamanca who lived many years outside her community to dedicate herself to forming a family.
Her life changed completely when she was widowed 17 years ago, and that’s why she decided to go back to her roots and set herself up on the farm she inherited from her parents. It was a difficult time for Doña Ney because she felt alone, discouraged and insecure, so she decided to start taking courses and get into training programs at public institutions and Fundecooperación to learn new things, and since then she hasn’t stopped.
“I started with a project of sewing and raising a local variety of hens, and I planted some produce for my own consumption. One day, in one of the training courses I was attending, they donated some materials to me for cultivating cacao, and thanks to that, today I have two hectares planted to native cacao and a half hectare planted to grafted cacao. I also have part of the farm planted to bananas. In the last four years I’ve received advisory and training from Fundecooperación, and that has helped me think about doing new things, producing in the best way and putting the land to good use. It also helps me stay motivated and active,” she commented.
Despite being 71 years old, Doña Ney doesn’t rest; she says that her life is the countryside, planting and taking care of her animals. The variety of things she dedicates her time to ranges from cultivating the land, sewing, baking, and even raising animals such as geese, hens and tilapia. Because of her age, not all days are good for doing what she likes most, so she says that when she can’t take care of her crops, she works at sewing and baking, because staying in the house without doing anything is not an option for her.
“Keeping busy makes life more beautiful; that way I feel I don’t get old or sick so much, that way I feel motivated and fully alive. I want to tell people that you can get ahead; even though there are many difficulties along the road, they shouldn’t lose hope or waste an opportunity to learn new things and get support from institutions such as Fundecooperación to achieve their projects,” Doña Ney says.
Organic Agriculture with Water Harvesting
Twelve years ago, she learned about organic agriculture and got excited about the possibilities of innovating a kind of environmentally friendly production that few farmers at that time, and even now, have dared to do.
She says that the process has been hard. When she started getting training on organic agriculture, she was the only woman in the midst of many men. Moreover, people criticized her and told her it wasn’t going to work. Today she proudly says that may other farmers ask her for advice and about the processes for transforming their production.
Sonia is a member of the Northern Cartago Organic Agriculture Association, which has received support from Fundecooperación for its members, and it was there that she found out she had the possibility of getting a loan that would have been almost impossible for her to get from the banks. At Fundecooperación she was given a loan to build a water harvester in a greenhouse.
“Everything was very efficient with Fundecooperación. In 15 days, they approved the loan and within a month I already had the water harvester ready. It’s gone really well for me with this new production model, and I’m preparing to plant new seeds and expand my supply of produce such as tomatoes, cabbage and other plants that are very difficult to grow in an open field. In addition, because of my organic business model I’m very happy to be able to make the most efficient use of water,” she affirms.
Sonia says that her farm has been certified organic for several years now, which motivates her to keep producing in the most natural way and with an ecological awareness, and that she is grateful for having had training for implementing new environmentally-friendly forms of production, since getting certified is an arduous process that consists of inspections to ensure that production is natural.
¡Let’s Build Your Dreams Together!
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