This is a story about the power of school children. In 1987, Eha Kern, teacher at Fagervik School in rural Sweden, invited the U.S. biologist Sharon Kinsman to give a slide presentation on the state of the rainforest in Costa Rica. At the time, conservation efforts in this Central American country were just starting, after agriculture development and deforestation threatened what was left of its primary forests. Saddened by the gloomy prospect of rainforest disappearance, a student asked whether his class could buy a rainforest. Encouraged by their teacher, the students raised US$25,000 in four years by selling cards, paintings, baked products and crafts. The idea reached other schools of Sweden and eventually, US$100,000 was raised, an amount matched by the Swedish government. Partnering with the Monteverde Conservation League, they were able to buy six hectares of what would become the El Bosque Eterno de los Niños (Children’s Eternal Rainforest) in the Monteverde area of Costa Rica.
Soon, the initiative spread around the world and students from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Spain and Japan also participated to the effort. In 2016, 44 countries and up to US$2 million was amassed to purchase a total area of 22,500 hectares, the largest private land reserve in Costa Rica.
The Monteverde Conservation League is a non-profit organisation founded in 1986, with the goal of “conserving, preserving and rehabilitating tropical ecosystems and biodiversity” in Monteverde. They wanted to buy land in Costa Rica to protect and reforest, a goal that they are still maintaining. More land is bought every year, with the aim of creating corridors between protected areas, allowing the safe migration of animals such as jaguars and insects like butterflies. From the mountainous center of the reserve to the Pacific Ocean, the Children’s Eternal Rainforest extend through 7 different life zones, each with its particular temperature, elevation and climatic conditions.
Costa Rica’s 1998 biodiversity law was recognized internationally at the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit in 2010, when the country was awarded the first Future Policy Award. Representing only 0.03% of the world’s surface area, Costa Rica is estimated to harbour 5% of the biodiversity of the planet. Parks and reserves play a crucial role in the protection of animals, insects and plants biodiversity, but only if they are well managed and are surrounded by low-impact land uses around them. Through environmental education programs that teach local children the importance of preserving the forest, and the continuous help of donators, the Monteverde Conservation League hopes to pursue its vital mission for the tropical forest: give a voice to children by being the guardian of one of the richest ecosystems on Earth.
Burlingame, LJ. History of the Monteverde Conservation League and the Children's Eternal Rainforest, Associación Conservacionista de Monteverde, May 2016
Till, N. Monteverde Conservation League still working to protect forest land, educate public after 27 years, EcoChronicle, 7 August 2013
World Future Council. Future policy award 2010 announced. 25 August 2010
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad. Biodiversity in Costa Rica. 2014
Wainwright, M. Life zones. Friends of the rainforest, 2016
Featured image by Virginie-l via Pixabay (Creative Commons CC0)