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Costa Rica President visits Eden Project Pavilion at COP26

The Eden Project’s work in Costa Rica was given a welcome boost at COP26 in Glasgow last week as Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the President of the Central American nation, visited the Eden Project Pavilion at the climate conference.


Costa Rica President with the Eden team


On his visit to the Eden display, President Alvarado and the First Lady Mrs Claudia Dobles Camargo met David Harland, Chief Executive of Eden Project International, and Alexandra Dixon, the Eden Project’s Director of Special Projects, as well as other members of the Eden team who are working on Eden’s Costa Rican plans.

The Eden Project is working with the Matambú Forest Nature Reserve, located in the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, which in the last 20 years has regrown a vast swathe of degraded farm land into secondary growth tropical dry forest.

The rehabilitation of the land at the Matambú Reserve is part of Costa Rica’s remarkable programme of reforestation and restoring biodiversity, which has resulted in 53 per cent of the country now being covered in forests. This incredible work led to Costa Rica winning the Protect and Restore Nature category at the Duke of Cambridge’s inaugural Earthshot Prize last month (October).

Eden’s ambitious plan is to continue the regeneration of this forest and expand its area across the peninsula, encouraging the return of wildlife - including jaguars and tapirs - and to work with the local communities to create a region that is sustainable both environmentally and economically.

The Matambú Reserve currently covers an area of 3,500 hectares and sits within a “biological corridor” of adjacent forests measuring more than 65,000 hectares.

Eden’s ambition is to use Matambú as a catalyst to grow and enhance that corridor, working with its partners, neighbours and the Costa Rican Government to make it 20 times its current size. The corridor - currently roughly the size of New York City – would see the addition of a swathe of rich and biodiverse forest equivalent to the combined areas of London, Paris, Moscow, Cairo, Lagos, Mexico City and Tokyo.

Costa Rica is an exemplary clean energy and decarbonisation laboratory. The extent of this project in the Nicoya Peninsula is to consolidate the country's vision that the route to development goes through the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change.

This physical expansion will be supported with the creation of training and education programmes at Matambú which will encourage business and employment opportunities which are symbiotic with the forest. Encouraging sustainable tourism to help spread the message of regeneration around the world will be a vital part of this vision.

David Harland said: “It was a great honour to welcome President Alvarado, the First Lady and their team to the Eden Project Pavilion to discuss our work in their country. I was privileged to have heard the President give one of the finest speeches on the environment the day before in Glasgow, which reminded us all that we have choices to make in the battle for the environment.

“The President’s endorsement of our Matambú Project is a wonderful fillip as we continue our aim to create a global exemplar project of healthy people on healthy lands. We are, if you like, a microcosm of the incredible work being done across Costa Rica, as the President so eloquently espoused the day before.  

“We are confident that our work at Matambú is completely in tune with the progressive and world-leading environmental policies of the Costa Rican Government and we are grateful to the support we have received from President Alvarado and his government.”

Eden’s plans in Costa Rica will be delivered by a four-step programme. First, US$15m will be raised from investors to purchase the Matambú Reserve. Following this, Eden will develop education programmes in regeneration and entrepreneurships, designed to encourage local enterprise including agriculture and tourism delivered in a manner that promotes the regeneration of the forest.

The third step is the financial sustainability of the Reserve and associated enterprises, creating an exemplar for the wider region and ultimately leading to the fourth step – the expansion of the biological corridor to meet national conservation and development priorities.

Matambú represents the vision of the Danish entrepreneur, Peder Kolind who, starting in 1996, bought 42 derelict farms on the Nicoya Peninsula. The land was seriously degraded from multiple generations of logging and cattle farming – all that remained was a tiny island of primary forest surrounded by desert.

In the nearby town of Paquera, the rivers ran dry for five months every year, fires raged, farms were scorched and there was unrest and great hardship. Peder had a dream to regrow the forest and transform both the land and the lives of those who lived there, by protecting the land and allowing nature back in.

Over the next 25 years, nature gradually healed the land at Matambú. Trees and vines regrew, the barren landscape transformed into lush green forest, birdsong and the hum of insects filled the air and rejuvenated rivers began to flow all year round. The forest brought clouds, regular rainfall and cooler weather – a nurturing climate for all.

Eden’s work in Costa Rica is part of its growing relevance to the environmental issues of today, mostly particularly the need to reconnect with nature and to demonstrate that, if protected and nurtured, nature can heal itself.

In addition to the important visit by Costa Rica’s President, last week at COP26 saw the announcement of Eden Project Colombia, which is set to become the first South American Eden Project, and the endorsement by UNESCO and the Chadian Minister of Environment for its ongoing work on Lake Chad.

The first Eden Project-designed content outside Cornwall to open to the public made its debut in Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai last month (October). Eden’s Expo work is at the vanguard of an Eden Project international programme that will see new Edens built in Morecambe in Lancashire, Dundee in Scotland, Qingdao in China, Anglesea in Australia, Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Christchurch in New Zealand among others.