Cultivating Nature – A study of land use and Fairtrade coffee farming in Costa Rica

Published on November 29, 2016 | Author: Miron M. Arljung

This thesis is a comparative study of three coffee producers in the San José region of Costa Rica, who either are or have been Fairtrade certified. The purpose is to examine the land use models of the coffee farmers and to analyse what impact Fairtrade certification has had on the choice of these. The theoretical framework was based on the concept of land sharing and land sparing as a way to understand the existence and function of non-commercial plants within the farmland on the one hand and the relationship between agriculture and nature on the other. Participatory mapping and semi-structured interviews were conducted among farmers in the Santa Elena community, together with interviews with representatives from the cooperatives, the department of agriculture and more. The results show that most farmers don’t identify their land use as belonging to any particular strategy but nevertheless use intensive cultivation with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Monoculture and polyculture exists and non-commercial trees could be found on both types of farms, with the main purpose of providing shade for the coffee.

A dichotomy between agriculture and nature appears to be common, which would mean that a more land sparing philosophy is prevalent. Only one organic farmer showed clear signs of land sharing practices with an emphasised synergetic approach with focus on ecosystem services. In conclusion, it seems like Fairtrade certification affects these types of land use mostly in an indirect manner, working mainly with the cooperatives who then primarily work with aspects like regulated chemical use. It also appears that the producers who seek out certification are either those who high altitude farmers who can live up the quality standards and/or those who already share common principles with Fairtrade, leading to marginal changes in land use after certification
Arljung, M.M. (2016). Cultivating Nature – A study of land use and Fairtrade coffee farming in Costa Rica. Master’s Thesis. Department of Human Geography. Stockholm University.
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