Named one of the top agricultural projects in the country, the multi-award-winning Home Gardens initiative supported by Peninsula Papagayo and Creciendo Juntos in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture welcomes 50 new families from another eight communities to its groundbreaking seven-month agricultural training program, while recent graduates from the local community of El Triunfo have banded together to become Peninsula Papagayo’s first local produce supplier.
By Francesca Poddie | September 15, 2022 | Guanacaste
Creciendo Juntos

During the pandemic, rural communities in Guanacaste suffered greatly from loss of jobs, incomes and livelihoods. In an effort to support neighbors in need, Creciendo Juntos partnered with the Scheinberg Relief Fund and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) to launch Home Gardens, a community initiative that trained 53 families in five local communities how to grow their own vegetables not only for self-consumption, but as a sustainable commercial endeavor, selling excess production for much-needed income.

The initiative flourished with great success. The families, the majority led by women, participated in a comprehensive seven-month training program that covered a wide-range of areas including accounting, team work, sustainability, harvesting, irrigation, waste management, and supply chain efficiency. Over 5,000 linear meters of beds were sowed with 15 varieties of vegetables using non-transgenic seeds in the nearby communities of El Triunfo, Paso Tempisque, Palmira, Comunidad, and Guardia. The project yielded more than 20,000 kilograms of produce, which provided sustenance for participating families as well as economic profits from selling surplus produce to restaurants, supermarkets and other residents.

“Neither my family nor I ever imagined the positive impact that this project would have on our lives,” said Verania Chavarría, a neighbor and now a farmer in the Comunidad community.

Elsa Bonilla, Director of Creciendo Juntos, recounts how a once-shy farmer from El Triunfo who barely spoke in public was chatting confidently with the Minister of Agriculture by the end of the program. “The transformation brought tears to my eyes. It’s an incredible demonstration of what can come from women’s empowerment.”

The impact of the project was so significant, it began garnering countrywide acclaim and support. In July 2021, the Costa Rican president and first lady toured Guanacaste, awarding the Home Gardens initiative one of the best agricultural projects in the country. The program also took home the top prize from the North American Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in the Public-Private Alliances category. In a nationwide competition, Unilever chose the project to be the recipient of proceeds generated by the sale of its book Costa Muy Rica, totaling approximately $25,000 USD in funds. In addition, the INAMU (National Institute for Women) is providing support in response to the benefits obtained by women heads of household.

This year, El Triunfo, the community located closest to Peninsula Papagayo, became a supplier of produce to Andaz Costa Rica and the Clubhouse at Prieta Beach with Four Seasons to follow. “It’s the first time Peninsula Papagayo will have a local provider instead of sourcing produce from the Central Valley because vegetables have not been grown in this area for commerce before,” explained Bonilla. Andaz guests can also visit the community of El Triunfo to harvest vegetables alongside the farmers, which the executive chef prepares for guests in their dish of choice.

As a result, Creciendo Juntos and MAG worked with the 14 families of El Triunfo to create a formal business association and build a collection and distribution center for shipments to Peninsula Papagayo. El Triunfo’s vegetable production also received a 100% clean of pesticides certification from the quality control government entity Fitosanidad del Estado, the only supplier in the country to do so.
A second cohort of 50 families from another eight communities are now undergoing the same seven-month training provided by Creciendo Juntos and MAG, and benefiting from the same supplies and tools like seeds, fertilizers, harvesting equipment and mechanical pumps donated by L360 FAMILY, a fund spearheaded by a homeowner at Peninsula Papagayo.

“The goal is to create a second formal association of new participants and a large self-sustaining chain of suppliers to meet Peninsula Papagayo’s needs,” stated Bonilla.

The far-reaching measure of success, however, goes beyond the borders of Guanacaste. The Ministry of Agriculture is now using El Triunfo as an archetype to implement Home Gardens in rural communities throughout Costa Rica.

Residents or guests who would like to volunteer, donate or visit the farming communities of Peninsula Papagayo can reach out to Creciendo Juntos via Elsa Bonilla or make direct donations here. “Creciendo Juntos literally translates to ‘growing together’,” said Bonilla. “With the Home Gardens, our name has never rang more true.”