Research in Economic Development and Environment

Contributing to the SDG

Addressing the challenges of climate change and variability

In 2019, the Research Program on Development, Economy and Environment (PIDEA) carried out several actions to address the challenges arising from climate change and variability. It generated applied research, provided advisory services and strengthened the capacities of key actors, including technicians from ministries of agriculture and environment, and development institutions in several countries of the region, such as Belize, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Paraguay, among others.


In order to address problems of water scarcity and low productivity in the use of water, which are exacerbated by climate change, several technical studies were carried out to support a programme of payments for environmental services in the Yallahs and Hope Basins, which provide water to the cities of Kingston and St. Andrew where 40 per cent of Jamaica’s population lives. This program was innovative and has great potential for replication in other parts of the island and in the Caribbean in general because of its effectiveness in watershed protection; a task that draws on CATIE’s more than 15 years of experience in designing, implementing and evaluating payments for environmental services in several countries of the region.


The LATINOADAPTA project sought to strengthen decision-making in the area of climate change adaptation, closing knowledge gaps identified in Costa Rica’s National Report and strengthening the links between science and public policy. Among other actions, work was done to strengthen the already institutionalized platforms that act as networks for consultation, advising and channels of political influence in the country, and support was given to the Scientific Council on Climate Change (4C). The lessons learned from this experience will be used in the other five countries of the region that are part of the initiative (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Uruguay).


In 2019, support continued for business training that seeks to successfully, sustainably and inclusively scale up and insert MiSMEs (especially associative enterprises) into value chains. In this case, the work done in promoting productive and service enterprises aimed at the indigenous population in the framework of the capacity-building programme in indigenous territories in the Brunca Region of Costa Rica was noteworthy.


With the aim of strengthening the coffee sector in Central America, under the framework of the project on Socioeconomic and Environmental Sustainability of Agroforestry Coffee in Central America (SEACAF), economic, social and environmental trade-offs between agroforestry systems and coffee monocultures are being identified and evaluated. This study emphasized the economic and social contribution of coffee agroforestry to agricultural livelihoods. The results of this initiative will provide evidence to support the formulation of agricultural and environmental policies in the region.

Environment for Development (EfD): developing research in economics and development

After 12 years of operation at CATIE, EfD-Central America is consolidated as a regional reference in environmental economics and advising on the design of environmental policies in the region. In 2019, EfD carried out research in the following areas in collaboration with government actors:


    1. Impact of public policies to minimize the effect of flooding in urban and rural areas
    2. Mechanisms for adapting to the negative effects of climate change on human capital formation
    3. Carbon tax design and implementation options


In addition, in conjunction with seven countries around the world and with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), EfD contributed to the design and
application of a methodology to economically value environmental services (e.g. pollination and water purification) and to include them in national accounts systems (Gross Domestic Product) through the use of economic valuation methodologies that can be replicated in low-, middle- and high-income countries.


Under the Sustainable Management of Oceans and Marine Resources project, which is being developed In Chile, South Africa, Tanzania, Vietnam, India and Costa Rica, innovative tools from the experimental economy are applied to encourage changes in the behavior of the different actors in the production and consumption chain of plastics that pollute marine and coastal areas. In particular, research was conducted on the impact of the use of biodegradable packaging on agricultural product markets and the characterization of different public policy options to minimize the use of polluting plastics.

Capacity Building

Training of Trainers in Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) in Belize
In 2019, 44 extension agents from MAFFESDI (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration) were trained in CSA. These technicians now have knowledge and tools that allow them to assess the risk of climate-related impacts arising from the interaction of climate hazards with the vulnerability and exposure of agricultural systems, and they have a set of proven practices that can be used to mitigate these risks.


Network for strengthening the economic valuation of ecosystem services in the Gran Chaco Region, Paraguay-Argentina
CATIE contributed to the creation and strengthening of this network, including participation in the First International Seminar on Valuation of Ecosystem Services in Argentina, in collaboration with the National University of Formosa and the National University of Asunción.


Capacity building in indigenous territories in the Brunca region, Costa Rica
In order to promote productive enterprises and successfully, sustainably and inclusively insert them in value chains, in 2018 and 2019, CATIE worked on business training for 373 indigenous Bribri and Ngäbe families (about 150 women and 223 men) from the Brunca region of Costa Rica, who are undertaking agricultural or service activities. Among the most relevant results is the generation of at least 20 commercial alliances, the most relevant being the one reached with fashion designer Víctor Alemán (Timberland’s representative in Costa Rica) and the INOV8 company for production, highlighting the launch of high fashion garments based on cultural elements of the indigenous groups. Some of these garments will even be put on sale at the international airport of Costa Rica. This program was created at the request of the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS).


A partnership that is bearing fruit
CATIE made recommendations to IMAS (Brunca headquarters) on the way its social aid programs for indigenous populations are structured; these were accepted and changes were made in both the approach and the duration of the training, with follow-up given to the beneficiaries. Thanks to the training program and this contribution, the institution has expressed its interest in continuing to support CATIE’s work in the Brunca region with the possibility of applying it in other regions of the country. In addition, two tools were developed: one measures the capacity that each person has to become an entrepreneur and the second allows an analysis of the level of business development in an established enterprise. Both tools have been adjusted for working with indigenous populations (differentiating element) and their use allowed the development of a training network in accordance with the capacities of the beneficiaries and the potentialities detected in the Brunca region.


Innovative courses that meet the demands of the region

Lessons for the implementation of Payment for Environmental Services (PES). At the request of several governmental actors in the Government of Jamaica, a course was held to build capacity in the design and implementation of PES. Ten professionals (six women) participated, who came to CATIE’s headquarters to learn first-hand about the institution’s and Costa Rica’s experience in implementing PES in order to start a similar program in Jamaica.


Economic foundations for the management and valuation of environmental services. This was given to 14 people (nine women) from seven countries from the governmental sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, etc., and it was offered for the twentieth consecutive time at CATIE’s headquarters, providing tools for economic valuation of the environment, as well as public policy options based on economic incentives for ecosystem management in the region.


Water and economy. Ten people (six women) from various sectors from five countries participated in this course, which addressed various aspects of water management in the region from an economic perspective, in a context characterized by growing pressure for the use of water for various uses and the negative impacts of climate change and variability.


Capacity building in carbon measurement and economic valuation of environmental services. At the request of the Jamaican Forestry Department, several courses were provided to 54 professionals (36 women) regarding carbon measurement and monitoring for REDD+ programs, as well as the use of economic valuation methodologies for environmental services provided by forests and forest plantations in Jamaica.


Training of trainers and governance in associative companies (virtual mode). This was aimed at fifteen people (eight women) from eight countries, who are in technical positions linked to work with rural associative enterprises or who are part of associative enterprises. Work was done on practical methodologies for capacity building (coaching), organizational management and good governance.


Development of a seal for sustainable soy production
The Union of Cooperatives (UNICOOP), the Agricultural Production Cooperative (COPRONAR) and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADES) of Paraguay sought CATIE’s
support for the formulation of a seal based on sustainable agribusiness through the implementation of best agricultural practices that integrate economic, social and environmental criteria; as well as developing a parallel process for capacity building in the soybean value chain in Paraguay that involves companies linked to soybean production that want to differentiate their product. To achieve this, a (digital) tool was developed to evaluate production systems and determine their sustainability. The tool has a series of criteria, indicators and elements that are directly linked to social, environmental and economic aspects.

Our strategic partners

By strengthening its strategic alliances, CATIE has been able to enhance its actions with the support of multiple local, national and international partners.


Public sector

  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration (MAFFESDI) of Belize
  • Joint Institute for Social Assistance (IMAS)
  • Union of Cooperatives (UNICOOP)
  • Agricultural Production Cooperative (COPRONAR)
  • Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADES)


International organizations

  • The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA)
  • Forestry Department (FD)

Most relevant publications of 2019

Below are the 10 most relevant publications for 2019, including one publication in the journal Nature Climate Change and two in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).


  • Alpízar, F; Bernedo del Carpio, M; Ferraro, PJ; Meiselman, B. 2019. The impacts of a capacity- building workshop in a randomized adaptation project (en línea). Nature Climate Change 9: 587-591. Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en
  • Van Etten, J; De Sousa, K; Aguilar, A; Barrios, M; Coto, A; Dell’Acqua, M; Fadda, C; Gebrehawaryat,Y; Van de Gevel, J; Gupta, A; Kiros, A; Madriz, B; Mathur, P; Mengistu, D; Mercado, L; NurhisenMohammed, J; Paliwal, A; Enrico-Pè, M; Quirós, C; Rosas, JC; Sharma, N; Singh, S; Solanki, I; Steinke, J. 2019. Crop variety management for climate adaptation supported by citizen science (en línea). PNAS 116(10):4194-4199. Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en
  • Sterner, T; Barbier, E; Bateman, I; Van den Bijgaart; Crépin, AS; Edenhofer, O; Fishcer, C; Habla, W; Hassler, J; Johansson-Stenman, O; Lange, A; Polasky, S; Rockström, J; Smith, HG; Steffen, W; Wagner, G; Wilen, JE; Alpízar, F; Azar, C; Carless, D; Chávez, C; Coria, J; Engström, G; Jagers, S; Köhlin, G; Löfgren, Ä; Pleijel, H; Robinson, A. 2019. Policy design for the Anthropocene (en línea). Nature Sustainability 2:14-21. Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en
  • Herrera, D; Pfaff, A; Robalino, J. 2019. Impacts of protected areas vary with the level of government: Comparing avoided deforestation across agencies in the Brazilian Amazon (en línea). PNAS
    116(30):14916-14925. Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en
  • Beveridge, L; Whitfeld, S; Fraval, S; Van Wijk, M; Van Etten, J; Mercado, L; Hammond, J; Davila-Cortez. L; Suchini, JG; Challinor, A. 2019. Experiences and Drivers of Food Insecurity in Guatemala’s Dry Corridor: Insights from the Integration of Ethnographic and Household Survey Data (en línea). Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en
  • Viguera, B; Alpízar, F; Harvey, C; Martínez-Rodríguez, R; Saborío-Rodríguez, M; Contreras, L. 2019. Climate change perceptions and adaptive responses of small-scale farmers in two Guatemalan
    landscapes (en línea). Mesoamerican Agronomy 30(2):313-331. Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en DOI 10.15517/AM.V30I2.33938
  • Viguera, B; Alpízar, F; Harvey, C; Martínez-Rodríguez, R; Saborío-Rodríguez, M. 2019. Climate change perceptions and adaptive responses of small-scale coffee farmers in Costa Rica (en línea).
    Mesoamerican Agronomy 30(2). Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en DOI 10.15517/AM.V30I2.32905
  • Thornton, PK; Loboguerrero, AM; Campbell, BM; Kavikumar, KS; Mercado, L; Shackleton, S. 2019. Rural livelihoods, food security and rural transformation under climate change (en línea). Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en
  • Madrigal, R; Capitán, T; Salas, A; Córdoba, D. 2019. Household and community responses to seasonal droughts in rural areas of Costa Rica. Waterlines 38(4):297-315.
  • Chávez, I; Partelow, S; Madrigal-Ballestero, R; Schlüter, A; Gutierrez, I. 2019. Do responsible shing areas work? Comparing collective action challenges in three small-scale sheries in Costa Rica (en línea). International Journal of the Commons. Consultado 04 mar. 2020. Disponible en

Stories of Success

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration (MAFFESDI) of Belize


Objective: To support extension workers and farmers in Belize in improving their capacity to reduce the risks associated with climate change


“Thanks to the training and manual developed by CATIE, MAFFESDI technicians are trained and have tools that facilitate the use of the CSA approach as a strategy to address climate risk.
In addition, they will be able to diagnose the risk of climate hazards and identify and promote the adoption of practices for small producers to reduce the impact of climate change on their livelihoods. This will help us strengthen Belize’s agricultural sector, deal with climate threats, and be competitive in international markets,”

Victoriano Pascual, Director of Climate Change, MAFFESDI

Capacity-building program in indigenous territories of the Brunca Region in Costa Rica, Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS)


Objective: to promote productive enterprises and insert them successfully, sustainably and inclusively in value chains


“I’m living a dream I don’t want to wake up from. It has been an incredible experience what we have lived during the whole training process provided by CATIE. I never thought I would see models wearing my clothes, much less that I would be able to go with them, but now I want to continue working, creating clothes that are different from what I had traditionally done; this will give me more opportunities to sell and have more money for the house and the business”,

Julia Montezuma, participant in the program for the Altos de San Antonio Community, Ciudad Neyli, Costa Rica.