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Ecological Awareness and Sustainable Agriculture

As part of our global strategy to expand volunteer travel locations, Via International is excited to open an 8-day travel program in Costa Rica. Via’s Costa Rica travel program is a collaborative learning platform that offers students the opportunity for the exchange of knowledge at small-scale farming cooperatives in a familial setting. By participating in ongoing development projects focused on improving the quality of life in rural communities, students gain an increased ecological awareness around nutrition, family health, and sustainable ecology. Costa Rica provides one of the most biodiverse topological landscapes for community-based travel and the richness of people, culture, and natural landscape is unparalleled.

Participating in this adventure, you will be able to increase your own ecological awareness by learning through what Via calls sustainable literacy – a unique hands-on approach to development and agricultural learning from small-scale farming cooperatives.

What can you learn from the Costa Rican food forests?

Your adventure will begin in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose and will quickly move southeast towards the Pacific Ocean and coastal area of Limon, known for its gorgeous beaches, laid-back atmosphere and Caribbean inspired cuisine. Along the way, students will visit various small scale farming cooperatives, staying to work and experience life on a Costa Rican farm, learning about the agroforestry movement, and sustainable tropical crop management and experience some of the sustainable tourism activities Costa Rica is known for. This may include river rafting, zip lining or boating with endangered pacific turtles! A visit to the rainforest and lots of animal sightings are guaranteed!

“I believe that we can be successful if we balance our need for economic benefit with the needs of the environment.”
– José A. Zaglul, Founder of EARTH University

Details

Typical Program

Through our local food forest partners, Via offers groups a unique glimpse of some solutions for the issues of climate change, food insecurity and poverty. Groups will follow a path to various local farms, learning particularly about how breadfruit can be a solution to food insecurity in many regions of the globe. The group will visit various farms and learn about renewable energy, food forest production, and approaches to resolving global issues. All along the way we will taste the famous products of Costa Rica including coffee and chocolate.

Participants will engage with environmental programs including turtle rescue and will visit the wonders of the cloud forests usually seeing many endangered animals and birds. The itinerary includes some beach fun and river rafting!

Duration and Directions

Groups will arrive and be greeted at the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and ground transportation will be provided for the duration of your stay and is included in the fees. This includes transfer to the airport in San Jose upon departure.

Orientation

Upon arrival and after resting from the flight, an orientation will be provided including an introduction to Costa Rica with facts about local customs and culture, safety, rules and expectations. The orientation will provide an overview of activities for the week and background on the projects, people, and places where we will engage.

Via International is also prepared to offer a curriculum in support of this journey. This includes reading lists, pre trip seminars and post trip reflection modules.

Via International is also prepared to offer a curriculum in support of this journey. This includes reading lists, pre trip seminars and post trip reflection modules.

Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers should be adaptable and flexible, willing to work as part of a team, and respectful of local traditions, culture, and customs. Those taking part in community development or farming projects need to be capable of doing physical work, although previous experience is not essential. Spanish language ability is useful, but not necessary as English is widely spoken throughout Costa Rica.

Click here to view the packing checklist.

Food and Accommodations

The cuisine of Costa Rica is similar to that of other Central American and Caribbean nations, with a heavy reliance on beans, rice, plantains and root vegetables and varies in different parts of the country depending on past influences and history. One distinct aspect of this adventure will be the opportunity to eat truly farm to table for most meals. Meals will vary from place to place but will include a variety of local dishes both vegetarian and meat based. Costa Rican food is not typically spicy (although you will find some spicy influence on the Caribbean Coast) but rather relies on the fresh flavors that are woven together from the multitude of plants, fruits and vegetables available in this tropical land. For those with food allergies or needing a special diet, accommodations are made.

Accommodations will vary from place to place along the journey and will be a mix of small locally run hotels, dorm-style farm housing and family stays if your group chooses this option. If staying with a family, students will be housed in pairs. All accommodations will be a minimum of double occupancy.

Community and Region

Costa Ricans speak Spanish and are largely Catholic as a result of their colonization in the 1500s. However, there were a variety of pre-existing indigenous groups before the arrival of Europeans, and many traditions, recipes, artistic and musical styles have been retained over time to create a blended culture that is a rich and interesting mix of influences.

Costa Rica’s first inhabitants were indigenous tribes who were largely absorbed into the Spanish colonial society in the 1500s. While some indigenous peoples still retain their culture, language and traditions today, the number is relatively small and they continue to fight to retain and regain their rights.

Due to a lack of exploitable mineral or indigenous human resources, and its many mountainous, hard to reach areas, Costa Rica remained one of the poorer, more isolated, and under-populated regions of the Spanish Empire, where settlers had to work their own land. As a result, Costa Rica was largely ignored by the Spanish and left to develop their own rural democracy and was less impacted by the various wars in the region as power shifted throughout the colonial period.

Costa Rica formally declared its independence in 1838. Coffee plantations were established in the early 19th century, and quickly became the first major export industry. Coffee remained the number one source of income for the next century, prompting the development of transportation infrastructure. Immigrants who worked on the railway, completed in 1890, settled in Costa Rica, some with land grants which were used to produce bananas in quantities to rival coffee as the main export. This allowed foreign fruit companies to gain a large role in the nation’s economy. To this day, large scale banana plantations are a main economic driver for Costa Rica, however, with the emergent environmental movement in the country, there have been many efforts toward more ecologically friendly and sustainable farming practices. This goes hand in hand with Costa Rica’s emerging reputation as an eco-tourism destination. We will meet Costa Ricans working at the forefront of this movement to encourage small scale farming and agro-forestry initiatives that support the environment, people and economy of the region.

Via Local Partner Organizations

Finca Dos Madres is the home of Jungle Foods

Jungle Foods is a for-benefit breadfruit corporation aimed at revitalizing the tropics through diverse agroforestry models and delicious value-added goodies. Co-founders Diana Chaves, Gustavo Angulo and Paul Zinc are our hosts as we discover the magic of breadfruit throughout Costa Rica. An agro-ecological food forest of 100+ species of edible perennial vegetables and fruits with a developing nursery focused on everything rare and useful.

Diana Chaves, Jungle Foods Co-Founder holds a breadfruit and a tree right before a test run for our irresistible breadfruit chips. A woman with many hats, she is managing multiple facets of Jungle Foods while working on her thesis in architecture at the University of Costa Rica!

EARTH University

Via International is proud to partner with EARTH University. Since 1990, EARTH University’s innovative educational approach has been preparing young people from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and other tropical regions to contribute to the sustainable development of their home communities while constructing a prosperous and just global society.

Students, staff, professors and their families both live and work on this tropical campus in the Costa Rican rainforest, creating a strong community and support network that is invested in student success.

Contact Information

EARTH University

P.O.Box 4442-1000

San José, Costa Rica

Phone: +506 2713-0000

www.earth.ac.cr/en

Costa Rica: Ecological Awareness and Sustainable Agriculture

Sample Itinerary

Day 1
Arrivals Flights TBA
Check In
Dinner

Day 2
Breakfast
Orientation to Food Forests ~ Finca Dos Madres Farm
Lunch
Travel to Agroecological Farm La Flor
Tour and Renewable Energy orientation
Dinner
Lodging at La Flor

Day 3
Breakfast
La Flor Agroecological Permaculture orientation
Lunch
Agroecological Farm Experience
La Flor Yoga
Dinner

Day 4
Breakfast and Check Out
Farm Visit at Pejibaye ~ Breadfruit to feed the world
Lunch with Farm family
Explornatura River Rafting
Check in La Perla Negra Hotel
Dinner (Pizza night)

Day 5
Breakfast and Check Out of Hotel
Visit Baninito Sur ~ Breadfruit project and production of CacaoLunch
Kekoldi Village – Discussion with Bri Bri Indigenous group
Check In Colibri Cabinas on the Beach
Dinner

Day 6
Breakfast
Turtle Rescue project
Lunch
Hike with Don Tino to Reserve
Dinner
Lodging Colibri Cabinas

Day 7
Breakfast and Check Out
Drive and Check in at EARTH University
Lunch on campus
Earth University Orientation and Banana Tour
Dinner on campus

Day 8
Breakfast and Check Out
Drive to the Cloud Forest
La Selva Verde Lunch
Visit Estacion Biologica
Check In Selva Verde Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui Bungalows
Dinner Selva Verde

Day 9
Breakfast and Check Out
Drive to San Jose
Lunch in the City
Airport Transfers to ARR Juan Santamaría Airport

Impact

  • Discover the historical, political, and religious constructions of community within Costa Rica and develop a global lens for comparison to other Central American countries.
  • Learn the issues surrounding agriculture, international vs. locally owned farming and explore the roots of the environmental movement in Costa Rica
  • Analyze the development of large scale monoculture farming and its effects on environmental health, human health and society
  • Learn about the local response to the negative impacts of monoculture through a shift toward permaculture, agro-forestry and sustainable agricultural practices
  • Understand how leadership is demonstrated, honored and respected at the community level, through community-based programs
  • Participate in community-defined service projects supporting agroforestry and local community agriculture

You will be observing and actively listening to our community partners throughout your time in Costa Rica. Their ingenuity and many years of experience contain stories you will learn from and remember. A program of life-long learning, you may come away with a new world view and a new perspective of the complexity that is Costa Rica and its quest to be a leader in sustainability.

Testimonials

  • Loyola University Maryland
    “I highly recommend Via International as a great host agency for meaningful immersion programs, both domestic and international. They are rooted in the community with years of experience and relationships, organized and offer great educational input for the participants. They have everything you need for a comprehensive experience.”
  • University of Colorado Boulde
    “Via International is an excellent partner in engaging students in grassroots community development. During our recent service-learning trip to Bolivia, they proved responsive to our needs and adept at working with community partners and navigating local realities. The students came away with a remarkable understanding of local issues and global interconnectedness.”
  • Trip Participant
    "In January 2019 I went on an Agricultural learning adventure organized by Via International. We were taken to interesting indigenous community farms, private small scale farms, large scale commercial farms, and educational institutions to learn about how and what they grow. I was particularly fascinated with the food forests, how a small scale grower created a food forest on very steep land and make it sustainable and productive on minimal work. This allowed me to think about the potential for American based growers and how something like this would work well in our country. Plus, we got to see and taste the bio-diversity of so many different varieties of fruits that we normally don't get to see as end consumers, this was really exciting. I would highly recommend Via International for specialty education tours."

Program Fees

Program Development

Is a key expertise of Via Staff providing faculty and student leaders collaborative input to refine itineraries. We create unique access to local partners and coordinate all pre-trip activities.

Travel Services

Provide 3 meals-a-day including snacks and clean water, lodging at community site, adventure activity and museum entrance fees, first aid supplies, and 24-hour supervision. (Via transportation optional)

Educational Services

Create dynamic cultural exchange through a full-time Regional Coordinator and translator, presentations by local experts and partner organizations, discussions on regional issues and initiatives, community preparation and participation support.

Community Support

Covers the cost of volunteer work projects, bringing vital resources to community-driven initiatives, and funding the purchase of tools and materials that facilitate the visitor experience.

Sustainable Development Support

Provides an important donation to mission-based initiatives for year-round program development of micro-creditnutritionleadership educationecology training, and sustainable development initiatives.

Via's Integrated Model

We’ve designed our programs to provide high-value, affordable travel while maximizing volunteer and educational impact. Via provides full-service support and coordination to simplify logistics for group leaders and engage seamlessly with community-driven initiatives and local community members. Via’s regional facilitators and educational program development provide and integrated approach that offers visiting volunteer groups a deeply immersive, inspiring, memorable, and transformational experience that is safe, stable, reliable, and impactful.

We are very proud to offer this level of access and impact. A group of 14 participants can volunteer in Costa Rica for an 8 day immersion for as little as of $1700 per participant. To receive an exact quote based on your organization’s specific needs, please complete the form below.

For More Information or to Request a Quote

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