Important notes about the history of a pioneer costa rican organisation in the field of environmental issues: Fundación Neotrópica.

Fundación Neotrópica is a private non-profit organization, founded in 1985, according to the Diario Oficial La Gaceta Nº 104 under the Ley de Fundaciones Nº 5338 from 1973. Its original mission was to contribute to the sustainable development of the neotropical region through research, implementation and dissemination of actions to generate viable options for sustainable use of natural resources.

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The organization was founded by a group of Costa Ricans, concerned about the environmental situation of the country, in order to broaden the area of analysis and vision developed by other non-governmental organizations in the field of environment.

Historical Photos

Founders: Mario Boza, Álvaro Ugalde & Rodrigo Gámez. 1985.

Thus, Fundación Neotrópica was born to provide solutions to the problems that prevented the maintenance of sustainability in the buffer zones. Two strategies were established from the beginning and continue being in force:

  • Field Projects, helping communities to achieve their sustainable development.
  • Research & “Awareness”

Within its years of existence, the organization has been specializing in socio-environmental and economical development of the buffer zones. In addition, Fundación Neotrópica currently focuses on the areas of innovative thinking and research, such as Economic Ecology and Political Ecology, searching for solutions to environmental conflicts via advanced methods, such as multi-criteria evaluations, the assessment of environmental services and the Corporative Ecological Footprint.

The Foundation has carried out projects in the basin of the Tempisque River in Guanacaste, in Tortuguero Plains and the southern region, in the areas next to the national parks Corcovado and Piedras Blancas, as well as in the basin of Río Grande de Tárcoles. Recently it has worked in the “Zonas Protectoras”, improving the water resources with the emphasis on the three areas where the organization has field stations: Península de Osa, Coyolito and Atirro de Turrialba.

Fundación Neotrópica’s work is organized in three different programs: Sustainable Productive Solutions, Local Empowerment and Socioenviromental Management and Global Environmental Citizenship.

Some of the thematic focuses of our work are:

  • Community Wetland Conservation.
  • Management Plans.
  • Local Empowerment and Self-Management.
  • Environmental Education.
  • Ecosystem Services Valuation.
  • Community Rural Tourism.
  • Integrated management of forests.
  • Integrated management of farms.
  • Tree nursery and reforestation.
  • Agroforestry.
  • Ecological Footprint.
  • Rural microenterprise.
  • Municipal strengthening.
  • Production of teaching material with environmental contents.
  • Resolutions of environmental conflicts.
  • Advocacy for the conservation of sensitive resources.
  • Assessment of environmental services.

Since its creation the organization has foreseen its capacity of transcending national boundaries and therefore has set up a field of work called el Neotrópico (Nuevo Trópico), biogeographic zone which takes into account the life and migration of flora and fauna and spreads from the frontiers of the United States and Mexico to Patagonia, including the Caribbean Islands. It has also taken into consideration that nature in its processes has its own territorial parts which differentiate a lot from the artificial frontiers created by humans. Therefore the experience generated in one country could be used in other areas, in order to create unity.

The begining

In 1990 the Programa Boscosa (forest program) was established in Península de Osa. Later on two trainings were added in the area: “Capacitación en el uso sostenible de los recursos naturals” ( Training on the sustainable use of natural resources ) and the Centro Juvenil Tropical. The projects carried out in Peninsula de Osa generated a series of new experiences integrating applied research, field work and participation of local groups.

This led to a creation of new practices based on interlinking of the conditions with the local realities. The activities included: workshops for local planning, strategies for local forest management, training in the aspects of production and organization, reforestation and many others. From these experiences new opportunities arose to face challenges in other areas of the country. This was the case of the lowlands in Tortuguero, with the program Pocotsi, contributing to the improvement in management of natural resources in the neighbouring area called “Corredor Biológico Tortuguero”, a protected coastal strip of about 10.000 hectares which connects the Parque Nacional Tortuguero with the Refugio de vida Silvestre Barra del Colorado, and other protected areas located in the southeast of Nicaragua.

In 1994 the organization extended its geographical coverage to the Tempisque River basin, analyzing in detail about 50% of the basin with aid of an Evaluación Ecológica Rápida, realized through the Proyecto Ambiental para Centroámerica (PACA) and the Nature Conservancy.

In early 1997, Austrian Cooperation Bureau asked Neotrópica to assist in the resolution of socio-environmental conflicts present in the community of La Gamba, Golfito, Puntarenas.

Following the successful cooperation, a project for the self-management of La Gamba emerged, with an impact on sustainable development of its productive activities, and also emphasis on the diversification of touristic activities.

In 1998 maps were made readily available, exhibiting the country’s use of forest land on the scale of 1:50000. In that same year, it realized the study of the Rio Grande Basin of Tárcoles, in partnership with other organizations contracted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). This basin covers almost 5% of the national territory and is home to almost 60% of the population of the country, furthermore it concentrates 80% of the economic activity in Costa Rica. The foundation developed a diagnosis about the socio-economics and communal participation in terms of micro approach, enabling an analysis of the social aspects, economics and environment at the level of 25 watersheds. Another outcome of the study was the proposal of the zoning of the basin, with the emphasis on watersheds.

Between 1999 and 2000 activities for the repopulation of high forest species were developed, cadastral maps in various cantons were created, as well as basis for the agroecologic division of the northern area and basis for the Sistema de Pagos por Servicios Ambientales in the watersheds Ciruelas, Tibás and Segundo. Additionally the work with a private company concerning environmental management was further developed and strengthened.

Later on the Fundación started working with the emphasis on management of the basins, like the one of Río Damas, with a strong component of communal work in semi-rural zones of Valle Central. From this initiative another program arose, the Friends of Nature Environmental Education Program, which has been implemented annually since then.

The search for financial self-sustainability

One important feature of the Foundation is the permanent search for financial self-sustainability and the achievements in this field. Therefore it relies on the corporate membership program “Amigos de la Naturaleza” , comprising more than 200 individual and corporate members, both nationally and internationally; this program is led by the Communications and Corporate Liasions Unit. It also established the Editorial Heliconia, which produces high quality learning material for students, tourists and researchers. Additionally the Analysis Unit was created, in order to promote technical projects and consultancy. Recently another department called Educational Programs, Volunteering, Environmental Recreation & Community Unit has been created, which supports the execution of environmental education program, the formation of field stations and their interaction with the communities (Rincón de Osa, Coyolito, Atirro) through training initiatives, voluntary and environmental recreation.

In 2008 the foundation begun a training process of Nature Guides in Osa, with the financial support from private sector, great achievements were made and a new generation of young environmental leaders in Golfito and Osa was born. In 2009 it started the execution of a major project, Proyecto Mangle-Benín, thanks to the financial support from the Netherlands and Fundecooperación within the Cooperación Sur-Sur, especially focusing on the restoration of mangrove forests of Golfo Dulce and applying new methods that involved communal participation and empowerment.

In all these geographic and thematic areas Neotrópica contributed to the actions that have prompted national and local authorities. These are manifested through technical studies, working with companies and communities involving training and technical assistance, purchasing of land in protected areas, providing equipment of some parks at the level of infrastructure, and supporting the staff. In addition, the political effects of the organization have been reflected, for example in the approval of management plan for the* Humedal Nacional Térraba Sierpe (2010)*, partly a result of work done by the Proyecto Ecoticos, executed in 2009-2010 with the support of the Universidad Vermont and the Instituto Gundt de Economí Ecológica.

Today, just like in the past, the Fundación is preparing to face the challenges of development, providing experience, knowledge and its greatest efforts, always faithful to the commitment of contributing to a better quality of life for people in Neotropics, in harmony with their natural environment and working on an advanced environmentalism.

Award for Contributions to the Improvement of the Quality of Life 1999

The Award for Contributions to the Improvement of the Quality of Life recognises and highlights the positive aspects and contributions made by different sectors of society, which influence and improve the quality of life of residents, and contribute to shaping a better society based upo:

  • Solidarity and social security tax.
  • Protection, conservation and sustainable use of resources.
  • Integrating the concept of gender in programs, projects or activities.

La Fundación Neotrópica fue honrada con este premio en el año 1999.

“... for its research, implementation and dissemination of actions to generate viable options to patterns of destructive use of natural resources.”.


Detail of the plate:

  • Premio Aportes al Mejoramiento a la Calidad de Vida.
  • Categoría D.
  • Fundación Neotrópica.
  • 29 de octubre de 1999.
  • Cortesía Defensoría de los Habitantes de la República.

This document shows a list of individuals or organisations that have been granted this award.

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