Strengthen Local Power in Limon, Costa Rica
The province of Limon, Costa Rica offers ideal weather conditions for banana and pineapple cultivation. Large multinational corporations like Dole, Banacol, and Del Monte are attracted to the area to harvest these fruits for export. The powerful companies buy land vast amounts of land to begin their businesses, cutting down valuable rainforest to create fields. Countless social and environmental problems arise from the addition of multinational corporations into poor rural communities. The companies often forcefully purchase under-assessed land from struggling farmers who are desperate to make money, causing them to be dislocated. They monopolize small towns, control the labor force, and destroy the environment.
The small town of La Primavera has experienced many negative effects from the addition of multinational agricultural corporations to their tropical village. On a study abroad class in January 2006, I interviewed 16 locals on their opinions of export companies in their town. While most agreed that they are grateful that there are jobs available to them, most were discontent about the bigger picture: the condition of La Primavera and its residents. The companies use huge amounts of pesticides and fertilizers that are carried by the daily rain runoff directly into the La Suerte River. The river is so badly polluted that it does not support a fish population. Workers are not allowed to unionize for fear of losing their jobs. Many times the companies force them to work up to 14 hour days if it is harvest time. Many women complained of gender discrimination in the workplace. One of the companies only employs women in the pineapple packing area because the boss thinks their ‘delicate hands’ are their most useful asset (described by one woman).
The locals of La Primavera are vulnerable to exploitation from powerful multinational corporations. I hope to create a fund that will help to encourage local business growth and help to clean up the pollution. The people of La Primavera need more financial opportunities that are independent from the foreign companies to strengthen the economy. The town clinic gets a visit from the doctor only once a week, so funding can also go towards health care. Also, the river needs to be cleaned up so it can support fish populations and be sanitary enough for consumption. Money invested directly into this rural community of 445 residents can help to empower them and show the corporations that THEY are the most valuable resources in La Primavera.