Costa Rica’s Central Pacific region ranks among the country’s lowest-ranked when it comes to human development, but if the entrepreneurs, municipal leaders and institutions behind an ambitious ongoing project in the area have their way, that won’t be true for long.
Alcanzando Escala (Reaching for Scale) – an initiative of the Costa Rica USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA), the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund, and the Costa Rican government’s Tejiendo Desarrollo program – works with 10 Central Pacific municipalities to generate jobs and strengthen micro and small businesses (MIPYMES or MSMEs) in the area.
The program began two years ago to improve local families’ income and promote rural economic development models, according to a statement from CRUSA.
“With Reaching for Scale, we promote economic growth and the well-being of these regions by strengthening local production systems, creating value chains and building capacity based on competitive advantages,” said Marisela Bonilla, CRUSA’s Coordinator for Human Capital, Knowledge and Innovation.
The program has created or strengthened various initiatives throughout Costa Rica’s Pacific, including Caminos de Osa, the sustainable tourism project that allows tourists to hike through some of the Osa Peninsula’s most extraordinary natural attractions while meeting local families and learning about their traditional livelihoods, from harvesting tender heart of palm to processing sugar cane in a trapiche. (Read about The Tico Times’ visit to Caminos de Osa here.)
As part of Alcanzando Escala, an additional project called Cooking Labs has developed more than 40 specialized recipes that use 97 local products and ingredients to give tourists a true taste of Osa on their plates.
Another program within Alcanzando Escala has worked with Central Pacific municipalities to simply their bureaucratic processes – response time is now down 68 percent in the region – while training small business owners to improve their product quality and develop new ones. Producers of papaya, avocado, honey, cheese and cashew nuts have been among the beneficiaries.
As a result, more than 100 families have increased their income thanks to improved production systems and new products including creams, lip balm, picadillo de papaya, papaya masks for skin and much more, the statement said.
“Alcanzando Escala has been a great opportunity for the business. We’ve received technical support to improve our products and develop new ones, and [the program] has allowed us to begin relationships with various entities that have helped us improve our business,” said Noé Vargas, owner of Cosméticos Monteverde.
More than 200 enterprises have participated in eight value chains to help them market their products.