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SCALA Costa Rica

SCALA Costa Rica


Costa Rica is in Central America and has a varied topography that includes coastal plains separated by rugged mountains, including over 100 volcanic cones and inhabits around 5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Costa Rica is among global leaders in responding to climate change, with a long history of environmental protection, sustainable development, and action on climate change mitigation. Costa Rica’s vulnerability to extreme climate events and natural hazards is a result of the presence of populations in areas prone to volcanic eruptions and unstable lands, degraded by wide-spread cattle ranching, or in poorly planned settlements prone to landslides and flooding. A total of 36 percent of Costa Rica’s land use is attributed to agriculture, and it accounts for 14 percent of the country’s employment. 


Country Climate Plans

Costa Rica’s National Climate Change Adaptation Policy (2018-2030), states the priorities with respect to agricultural sustainable production, namely the 1) promotion of adaptation based on ecosystems outside the State's natural heritage, through the conservation of biodiversity in biological corridors, private reserves and farms under forest regime 2) promotion of water security in the face of climate change, through the protection and monitoring of sources and proper management of hydrological basins. The National Development Plan (2019-2022) reaffirmed the ambitious goal to promote a carbon neutral economy by 2021 and laid out strategies to promote renewable energy, reduce GHG emissions, and consider adaptation initiatives.  

In 2016, Costa Rica submitted its first NDC. Costa Rica’s National Climate Change Adaptation Policy (2018-2030), as well as the National Decarbonization Plan (2018-2050) and the NAMA coffee, NAMA livestock, NAMA sugarcane and NAMA Musaceae (banana), reflect some of the country’s key agri-food chains, which are livestock, coffee, rice, Musaceae and cane sugar. The country’s NDC aims to consolidate an agricultural model that is based on sound approaches in existing policies and strategies. To date, the country has developed a National Low Carbon Livestock Strategy, a National Low-emission Coffee Strategy, and the Low Carbon Banana Strategy, which focus on reducing risks and vulnerabilities in these value chains.



Costa Rica has developed policies and prioritized implementing transformative action in value chains, however, knowledge remains a key barrier because transformative change requires the adoption of new technologies. A second barrier experienced in Costa Rica is the availability of financing mechanisms that reduce risks for different actors, including investors, in the value chain. Lastly, there is a need to strengthen the institutional frameworks that oversee these processes, mainly at the early stages. The COVID-19 pandemic was a huge challenge – like for many countries, but Costa Rica managed to keep the value chains in operation and reported growth in agricultural exports, while still maintaining adequate levels of supply to the national market during these challenging times. The pandemic exposed how valuable the agriculture sectors are and demonstrated the resilience of agricultural producers.

Project details

In Costa Rica, SCALA focuses on the coffee and livestock value chains, supporting the implementation of Recarbonization of Global Soils (RECSOIL) protocols and certification standards that foster collaboration between different public and private actors.

In addition, the RECSOIL tool, designed to improve and scale up soil carbon sequestration initiatives, was successfully applied in three dairy farms of the Dos Pinos Cooperative, and in 25 coffee farms of the Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE). Capacity building was provided to more than 50 public and private sector actors in the practical application of the RECSOIL tool and protocols.

SCALA is supporting a domestic and international campaign to encourage private sector engagement and investment in deforestation-free beef production. As part of this effort, SCALA has developed a Technical Standard for Beef Production without Cover Loss and accompanying tools and training that support the traceability, automated registration, and verification system of livestock farms. A market study was carried out using the standard to identify potential domestic markets for differentiated beef and dairy products. In particular, the study allowed an assessment of existing conditions in the livestock sector through meat and dairy chain profiles.

SCALA is also conducting an analysis of coverage losses and gains from 2019 to 2022 in the Brunca region, using Costa Rica’s Monitoring of Land Use Change within Production Landscapes tool (MOCUPP), in partnership with the University of Costa Rica. These results are now available on the National Territorial Information System (SNIT).

In coordination with the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock and Environment and Energy, SCALA supports the coordination and operationalization of the Agro-Environmental Agenda and the Sustainable Productive Agro-Landscapes Initiative, through tools such as Effective Collaborative Action (ECA). Furthermore, the Programme is actively exploring new opportunities to collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture and academic stakeholders on the quantification and reduction of GHG emissions in livestock production systems associated with the Livestock Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA), along with technology transfer to producers.

SCALA has also played a key role in developing a Gender and Social Inclusion Roadmap for Women Farmers in Costa Rica, in collaboration with UNDP and FAO national gender experts. The strategy provides valuable information on women in the livestock sector and will inform future SCALA activities in the country. Ongoing related activities include targeted training for women ranchers, sensitization programmes for men, and other support initiatives to ensure that at least 50 women can participate in a new certification scheme and take on leadership roles in their communities. 

Project videos 

Female herders of Costa Rica: towards gender-sensitive climate action (2023) 

Combating climate change in Costa Rica's livestock sector (2023)

Disponible en Español.

Moving forward, SCALA in Costa Rica aims to:

  • Assess the carbon sequestration capacity of 19 dairy farms and 24 coffee farms using RECSOIL protocols.
  • Lead a workshop on the ECA methodology to operationalize the Agro-Environmental Agenda, jointly implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
  • Organize a capacity-building workshop on the bovine meat certification standard and the results of its related market study.
  • Propose a protocol to improve the Costa Rican Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) platform and the quantification and reduction of GHG emissions.
Natural Resource Management, Agriculture/Food Security
Level of intervention
  • National
  • Regional
  • Global
Key collaborators
  • Country Office
  • National Governments
Implementing agencies and partnering organizations
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Project status
Under Implementation

Reports & publications

Videos & multimedia