Natural resources/productive activities in the
Both Costa Rica and Nicaragua have seen expansion
of agriculture and ranching in their respective portions of the
SJRB. Natural lowland forests, generally flat terrain and non-floodable
lands, are now used for agriculture and, except for the most significant
biological reserves, the remaining natural forests have been high-graded,
lost to shifting agriculture, or to clearing for livestock production.
Estimates are that only 8.5% of the Nicaraguan sector and 8.0% of
the Costa Rican sector remains in either primary or secondary forests.
As a product of this loss of forests, a large number of hectares
of land have been exposed to high-intensity tropical rains and the
consequent loss of soil.
Agriculture covers 60% of the territory. In Nicaragua,
the basin produces 26% of the national bean crop, almost 21 % of
the sorghum, and slightly more than 16% of the corn and sugar cane.
In the Costa Rican sector, it produces 54% of the nation’s beans,
11% of its sugar cane, 6% of the corn and banana production, and
90% of tubers and root production. The agricultural frontier in
Nicaraguan is still expanding—often on land of low productive capacity
and on lands within protected areas (the agricultural frontier is
expanding eastward to threaten the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve).
In Costa Rica, the productive change from forest to agriculture
has already occurred and pressure is also directed at the colonization
of protected areas.
The causes of this process are found in a combination
of factors linked to subsistence of agriculture, clearing forests
for rangeland, inefficient use of natural resources, and newly arrived
migrants looking for land to settle. Lumber extraction has often
been an additional factor, providing road access and people to the
colonization process. Production technologies, which are in many
cases inappropriate, and the intensive use of agrochemicals on certain
crops, have negatively affected water quality.
Agriculture in the SJRB has clear asymmetries
with respect to the number of producers and available land areas.
Commercial producers represent 11% of the total number of farms
yet they occupy 55% of the agricultural land whilst small and subsistence
producers represent 89% of the farms on but 45% of the total agricultural
Ranching plays a fundamental role in both sectors
of the basin where nearly 20% of the national herd for each country
is found. The herds are different, however, in that those in Nicaragua
are generally dual purpose, meat and milk, while in Costa Rica the
production is specialized. Genetic improvement of the herds is a
priority, as are sanitation and range and pasture management.
Associated industrial activities are located in
the basin where 70 sawmills operate (10 in Nicaragua and 60 in Costa
Rica). On the Costa Rican side, four banana companies are located
in Pococí; one citrus processing plant in Los Chiles; three sugar
mills and milk cooperatives in Quesada City and San Carlos; and
numerous coffee processing plants scattered in the coffee growing
areas. On the Nicaraguan sector, agroindustrial activities are the
sugar mills in the Department of Rivas, one tomato processor in
the municipality of Nandaime, one palm oil extraction plant in El
Castillo, and several coffee processing plants.