In Costa Rica, where the government has set an ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2021, livestock accounts for 30% of national emissions. Nationally, more than 45,000 livestock farms employ at least 12% of the Costa Rican workforce and occupy over 35.5% of the territory.

In order to lower those emissions, improve the livelihoods of the farmers, and generate eco-competitive livestock production, several national, public, private, and academic institutions worked together to develop the Costa Rica Livestock NAMA Concept.

Meat, dairy, and dual-purpose cattle make up the majority of the livestock production systems in Costa Rica, which are dependent on grazing. With that in mind, the livestock NAMA concept introduces new pasture management techniques for climate smart, profitable, productive, and socially sustainable livestock. The techniques listed below involve planting trees and hedges for fences that capture CO2, introducing more nutritious, easily digestible fodder species, implementing new fertilization strategies, and much more.

Four levels of institutional arrangement

The NAMA further calls for creating a label to identify the products manufactured with low GHG emissions as an incentive for producers and to educate and inform the consumer, key elements for transformational change.

Gina Paniagua Sánchez, Vice-Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Costa Rica, introduced the country’s livestock NAMA at the NAMA Day event during COP 20 in Lima, noting it aims to contribute to a more eco-competitive livestock sector. She highlighted some of the expected co-benefits of integrating the NAMA with a broader focus on climate smart agriculture, including soil conservation and restoration, improved ecosystem services and improved incomes for farmers.

NAMA Day Audio of Ms. Paniagua Sánchez (en Español):

This NAMA is recorded in the UNFCCC NAMA Registry as a way to attract information on potential sources of support for its large-scale implementation. In addition, publically providing the details of the NAMA’s methods and technologies makes them available to countries with similar goals and challenges in their livestock sector.

New methods towards sustainable livestock

Hedges-pasture sections: Dividing pasture areas in farms into more pasture sections to allow a more efficient use of pasture and space. Hedges consist essentially of planting trees to divide the pasture areas and capture CO2. They are a source of food for the herd while they reduce production costs, as this type of fence should not be replaced as often as wooden posts.

Rational grazing: It is a management system of livestock farms that allows herd rotation in pasture sections at least every two or three days, increasing animal density and productivity per hectare. Moreover, due to longer recovery times, pastures are healthier as there is an increase in carbon sequestration in soil.

Pasture Improvement-feedingThe incorporation of new pasture species (e.g. the Brachiaria gender) results in a better nutrition of livestock, which increases productivity and reproduction rates. In addition, improved pasture reduces GHG emissions as it allows the herd to digest more efficiently and reduce enteric fermentation. It is worth noting that improved pasture and grazing are rational actions that are more successful when they are implemented together.

Improved fertilization plans: The use of fertilizers is a major source of GHG emissions in dairy farms; therefore, information and capacity building can contribute to implement them more efficiently and to implement other strategies such as organic fertilizers, slurries or new technologies, including slow-release fertilizers.

Financial mechanisms for wide-scale implementation

The Government of Costa Rica is covering the costs of the startup phase by providing direct assistance to 100 pilot farmers nation wide, with further technical and financial support to the Brunca Region through Low Emissions Capacity Building Program (LECB.)

Once the socioeconomic and environmental impacts are better understood through the pilot plan, substantial private financing will be necessary to fund the wider implementation.

Half of the farmers own approximately 16 head of cattle each while a small 10% own the majority, therefore creating two distinct segments within the industry that call for different financial instruments as identified in the NAMA:

i) a high level of co-financing (direct  payments)  for  the  measures,  through support conditional upon the adoption-verification of technology, which is a measure appropriate for the smaller groups.

ii) Credit guarantees for those groups whose access to credit is limited by the lack of collaterals.

iii) Prime interest rates for groups that have access to credit. These would be managed by the National Bank of Costa Rica (BNCR), which has accompanied the NAMA since the beginning of 2014, as well as other concerned financial institutions.

Full details of the Costa Rica Livestock NAMA Concept can be found in the NAMA Registry (not suitable for mobile):

The developers have also created a comprehensive document that provides an in-depth analysis of the NAMA: Livestock NAMA Concept (PDF)

Costa Rica’s 3rd National Communication (NC) with national GHG inventories and steps taken to address climate change, December 2014:

International support for low emissions livestock management

The environmental determination that Costa Rica has shown has attracted international donors and development organizations, and it has increased the counterpart funds of the private sector and the government to the cause.

The most relevant projects for the livestock sector – seeking compatibility to maximize the use of resources and collaboration results–include:

Low Emission Capacity Building Program (LECB), implemented by UNDP, works as the “delivery organization” of this NAMA and the main support program for the development of the MRV and the associated quantification methodologies.

Climate Action Program: With the support of BMU-GIZ and in collaboration of DCC-MINAE, it seeks to assist Costa Rica in reducing GHG emissions and achieving low carbon development.

EC-LEDS Initiative: Led by CATIE, it supports the work on methodologies for measuring GHG and developing strategies on low emission development.

Facilitation of Mitigation Implementation and Readiness (FIRM)It supports the development of National Strategy for Low Carbon Livestock Farming (ENGBC).

World Bank-PMR: This Alliance Project for Market Preparation supports the shaping of a domestic offset market through major economic and market mechanisms; it could also leverage future investments in the livestock sector.

Livestock Credit Reactivation Program CORFOGA-MAG-BNCR: Banco Nacional (BNCR) is funding the accounting of emission reductions of more sustainable practices in more than 370 cattle farms in order to offset their carbon footprint.

Corfoga Livestock Pilot Plan: It includes measurements of GHG in the farms, herd traceability, animal health and welfare, incentives and capacity building. A credit subcomponent aims at promoting sustainable production by issuing a portfolio of loans for up to € 2.940.000 with BNCR.

Fodder Network, Chamber of Milk Producers: This is an initiative of the Chamber of Milk Producers, with the participation of IICA and MAG, for the generation of data towards a more accurate livestock farming.

Project to Support the Implementation of NAMAs in Costa Rica: This is a project funded by the CIAT- CCAFS, managed by FITTACORI and implemented by MAG, in order to develop activities contributing to the mitigation and adaptation of the agricultural sector to climate change.