From the field-Costa Rica

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Solidarity Economy; a Growing Trend in Rural Communities

RedESS with Congress representative

Red ESS with congressman Vargas. Photo by Ana Carmona

In contrast to businesses exclusively driven by profits, the bottom line for solidarity-based enterprises emphasizes social concerns such as adequate compensation, healthy working conditions and responsible environmental practices. Concerned consumers are willing to pay premiums for goods and services adhering to these principles and several savvy IAF grantees are reaping the benefits.

In May 2014, four representatives from Movimiento de Economia Social y Solidaria del Ecuador (MESSE), an Ecuadorian nonprofit that promulgates principles of solidarity economy, travelled to Costa Rica to meet with the staff of Economia Social y Solidaria-Costa Rica (ESS-Costa Rica), an NGO with similar goals, as part of an IAF sponsored grantee exchange.

In Costa Rica, small family owned farms provide economic opportunities for themselves and their surrounding community. For example, organic farming is a common practice in Costa Rica that farmers use to produce quantities of food that is able to support such demand. MESSE visited these farms and a few local markets to learn how Costa Rican farmers used organic production. Small scale, organic farming usually consists of family members who have separate and distinct tasks to run their production. These families use leftover waste to become very self-sufficient with their manner of composting the soil and using it to produce better goods. These farms are also hold participatory certification; environmental, labor, and development standards overseen and governed locally by farmers in the area. What MESSE representatives were able to learn from Costa Rican farms and families were self-sufficient and organic techniques of farming that are able to support a family and community and regulations that ensure a quality product.

The Costa Ricans also benefitted from this trip from the representatives of MESSE. With help from them, the first forum of social and solidarity economy in Costa Rica took place of May 28, 2014. It, attended by government officials, academics, and representatives of MESSE and ESS-Costa Rica, spread awareness of a solidarity economy across rural communities nationwide. This was a major milestone for Costa Rica’s rural communities, however, as William Ochoa points outs, it is only a step in the right direction and there is still a ways to go. William Ochoa of MESSE states, “no hay todavia una autentica economia solidaria, al menos no hemos podido ver una autentica economia solidaria y como se esta todavia en un proceso de construccion no hay problema (…)” (RED-ESS). Ochoa says that he and MESSE have yet to see an authentic solidarity economy in Costa Rica, but it is okay because the Costa Ricans are still in the process of developing it.− Eric Quiroga, IAF Intern.