In Costa Rica, promoting responsible pineapple production

woman in front of pineapple farm
"Blanquita" Vargas leads a planting team in Costa Rica for pineapple production. (Photo: UNDP in Costa Rica)

In a rural community in the north of Costa Rica, a woman affectionately called “Blanquita” by her coworkers leads a planting team of the Flor Agroindustrias, a business dedicated to pineapple production. Four years ago, they began a process of organizational transformation to implement strategies for socially and environmentally responsible production.

Highlights

  • Women in Costa Rica earn 27 percent less than men for the same work in the private sector.
  • Pineapple exports for Costa Rica represent 7.3 percent of the country’s total exports. This generates 27, 000 jobs and more than 100,000 indirect jobs throughout the country.
  • The National Platform for Responsible Pineapple Production and Trade brings together more than 50 organizations, businesses, and related institutions working in this field.
  • With support from UNDP, Costa Rica has introduced a Plan of Action that defines the strategies, actions and responsibilities involved and fosters partnerships to promote production and trade that is responsible, fair, and in line with practices protecting the environment, the community and the general public.

“It has not been easy, but we have managed to come out on top in a traditionally male-dominated field,” Blanquita said proudly as 22 workers under her oversight prepared the soil for cultivation.

Blanquita, a mother of four, said that during the last year in which she has served as the team’s leader, she had to gain the trust of her colleagues -- and now they follow her instructions without any problems.

In addition to policies of zero discrimination and equal pay for men and women, her company also promotes formal education programs for its workers.

Kifah Sasa, UNDP’s Environmental Officer, explains that promotion of best practices such as these is a key objective for Costa Rica’s National Platform for Responsible Pineapple Production and Trade – a project funded and supported by UNDP with help from the Netherland’s Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO). The project involves an investment of approximately US $520,000.

The Platform encourages producers, marketers, workers, the community and the government to agree on and promote responsible production models that are beneficial for all sectors following strict standards to protect the environment. At present, more than 50 organizations, businesses and related institutions are all part of the Platform.

With support from UNDP, Costa Rica has introduced an action plan for the first time to  that fosters partnerships to promote production and trade that is responsible, fair, and in line with practices protecting the environment, the community and the general public. The Plan will be presented this month in the country.

Mauricio Badilla, a government official for Flor Agroindustrias, says Blanquita’s good example has inspired many other women, and has led to responsible business practices.

“Here we have a zero discrimination policy,” Badilla says. “Anyone, irrespective of their gender, nationality, sexual orientation or any other condition, can manage to succeed and make their mark just like Blanquita is doing.”

This year Blanquita will receive her qualification as a Senior Technical Officer in Agricultural Supervision and Management – a program conducted by the National Institute of Learning.

Official data for Costa Rica indicates that women face much more difficult conditions on the labor market than men do. Women suffer from higher levels of unemployment (10.8 percent compared with 7 percent for men) and are more largely represented in the informal economy (43.7 percent versus 36 percent of the national total). They also earn less than men do (up to 27 percent less in the private sector) and have less access to leadership positions.

“We want a model of pineapple production where workers are treated fairly, women are able to access leadership positions and are paid the same as their male counterparts, and where production does not contaminate water sources nor harm communities – but rather that the benefits of such production can be enjoyed by as many people as possible,” Kifah Sasa said.

This model of responsible production and trade has been promoted for various crops in Ghana, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia and Indonesia.