Costa Rica's banana industry plans to become completely carbon neutral as part of a nationwide bid to become the first country in the world to offset all of its carbon emissions.
Oscar Arias, president of the National Banana Corporation of Costa Rica (Corbana), unveiled the plans today, confirming an earlier announcement that the Central American nation is aiming to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2021, in time to celebrate the country's 200 years of independence.
A plan of action has already been approved and many projects are now underway to reach this target, he added.
"Costa Rica is an international leader on green issues, with protected areas like national parks and biological reserves covering more than a quarter of its territory. It is the first tropical nation to reverse deforestation," Mr Arias said.
Conservation and replanting projects have already helped increase Costa Rica's forest cover from 21 per cent in 1987 to 52 per cent today, revealed Corbana. The banana industry's contribution to conservation and reforestation has so far amounted to 6,305ha of replanted forests, 14.4 per cent of the land currently used in the country for banana plantations.
Costa Rica also generates 78 per cent of its energy from hydroelectric power and another 18 per cent from wind or geothermal power, noted the organisation. "The next step is to cut emissions from transport, farming, and industry," Mr Arias said.
Corbana has underlined its commitment to sustainable farming and long-term development by investing more than a million dollars, some of it from the growers themselves, in two new adjoining research facilities – the Biological Control Center and the Banana Molecular Biology Center – to look at ways of reducing chemical usage in the production of bananas.
The group has also invested in new research into less chemical-intensive methods of pest reduction. The research, which is exploring alternatives such as natural fungus that fights off disease and pests in the field, is expected to benefit the banana industry by offering a value-added product that is attractive to consumers in the European market.
Last year, Corbana successfully coordinated an exchange forum in Costa Rica with scientific delegates from 14 different countries, all looking for a solution to promote both sustainable production and food security world wide.
This forum led Plant Research International Wageningen UR and the University of Wageningen, Netherlands, to develop a partnership with Corbanan as well as the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), the Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium to reduce the use of pesticides in banana farming by 50 per cent in 10 years.