Sunday, May 31, 2009

Around the world in 80 Trades

This BBC program tracks the progress of London Financial Trader Conor Woodman as he tracks around the world making 80 trades. Buying goods and (hopefully) selling them for a profit!

Having lost money on trades ranging from horses to vintage tea to camels, Conor hits a winnig streak towards the end of his journey making money trading tequila and surfboards.

Finally ending up in Brazil, Conor risks all by spending his remaining money on a shipment of sustainably grown teak with a plan to sell it in England.

Is the the teak a worthwhile investment, can Conor recoup his previous losses watch and see:

In this part Conor seeks out a sustainable teak supplier in Brazil and purchases a container of teak:

The teak is back in England, but how much is it really worth, can Conor make money on this his largest trade?

To see how you can trade in teak and own development land in Costa Rica, have a look at our website and our premier project Finca Di Pacifico Dos.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ethical Investment

Investing in an ethical and socially responsible way is now acknowledged as a sound medium to long-term strategy. Whilst there will be those who are happy to make easy money at the expense of others, the trend for individuals, charities and companies is to seek profit responsibly via ethical investment is rapidly increasing. After all, who would disagree with investing in companies that have good employment records, manufacture products that people want to buy at a fair price, and on which a good profit is made? It is important to remember that much of socially responsible investment concerns the positive aspects of business life such as respect for the community (local and global) and for the environment. In these troubled times, an enlightened attitude to our responsibilities to future generations is imperative in business, if a company is going to survive.

The outlook turned sharply negative earlier this year. In the first quarter, worldwide investment in green energy projects of all kinds plunged 53% compared with the same period in 2008, to $13.3 billion... But that picture is already starting to brighten. After raising just $100 million from the debt and equity markets in the first quarter, green energy companies have scared up $2 billion in the second quarter so far." As oil prices climb back up and the realization that carbon based energy will become ever more expensive due to climate change measures increasingly restricting their use, green energy investments are likely to continue to gain.

Here, are ten Green mutual funds, each offering new prospects to participate in social and environmental responsibility while profiting from our expanding need to conserve and sustain global resources. They include: Appleseed, Integrity Growth & Income, Wells Fargo Advantage Social Sustainability, Dreyfus Global Sustainability, Calvert Large Cap Value, Calvert Global Water, Pax World Global Green, Pax World International, Pax World Small Cap and Firsthand Alternative Energy. Each fund offers a unique blend of financial pathways to sustainable prosperity.

Peter Zhang May 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Costa Rica and Latin America will be the first to recover from the current global economic crises

On the 23rd of May La Republica, Costa Rica reported on positive predictions for economic recovery made by Miquel Savastano, Assistant Director of the IMF (International Monetary Funds) Western Hemisphere region.

Mr. Savastano predicts that Costa Rica will be one of the first countries whose economies will recover in 2010. He bases these predictions on the sound financial and fiscal policies of the Costa Rican Government and Costa Rican central bank whose fiscal policies the IMF fully endorses.

More positive news comes from Nicolas Eyazaguirre, Director of the IMF Western Hemisphere region who is quoted as saying “Latin America in general will experience a quicker recovery than the larger economies” because “many countries in the region have responded to the crises with policies that boost production and employment. The outstanding feature being that six months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, NO Latin American financial system has experienced a banking crisis. Liquidity is good and Latin American banks have little dependence on foreign financing.”

Click here to read the full article in La Republica and here to read more coverage of this story by Christopher Howard in the excellent Live in Costa Rica Blog

To read more about the IMF’s recent reports on Costa Rica’s fiscal policies click here

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Are the effects of global warming on the rainforest irreversible?

A new study in the magazine “Science” shows that the climate change is significantly affecting the length of the rainforests dry season.

Current climate change and global warming has already changed up to 20% of the world’s rainforests natural composition. In the worst case scenario, 85% of the world’s rainforests could be affected.

The “normal” rainy season is followed by a period of dry weather, and as the length of the dry season is increasing more and more trees are dying.
Rainforests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while growing but this is released back into the atmosphere when the trees die and rot.

The lengthy dry season of 2005 caused the death of huge number of trees releasing over 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. By 2100, with a rise of just 1ºC to 2ºC the Amazon forest would lose 20% to 40% of its entire surface area, with a rise of 4ºC the remaining living rainforest would be the equivalent of just 15% of its current size. A temperature rise of 2ºC to 6ºC during the dry season would result in a loss of up to 18% of the rainforest!

Climate change is a major worldwide concern and tropical rainforests are a key player in controlling or at least attenuating it. The Amazon rainforest will require 50 years to recover from the effects of the 2005 dry season.

Loss of the rainforest is primarily due to deforestation for agriculture – grazing pastures and crops .

Unfortunately the problem of climate change is a vicious circle as more and more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere the rainforest endures longer and harsher dry seasons which kill more trees and those rotting trees release even more carbon dioxide.

The answer, reduction in deforestation of Natural Rainforests which act as a carbon sink, sustainable forestry and a reduction in emissions of green house gases from industry, transport and agriculture.

Easier said than done and global initiatives are required.

Monday, May 18, 2009

(No) Drill, Baby, Drill

by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN / The New York Times
Published: April 11, 2009

Sailing down Costa Rica’s Tempisque River on an eco-tour, I watched a crocodile devour a brown bass with one gulp. It took only a few seconds. The croc’s head emerged from the muddy waters near the bank with the footlong fish writhing in its jaws. He crunched it a couple of times with razor-sharp teeth and then, with just the slightest flip of his snout, swallowed the fish whole. Never saw that before.

These days, visitors can still see amazing biodiversity all over Costa Rica — more than 25 percent of the country is protected area — thanks to a unique system it set up to preserve its cornucopia of plants and animals. Many countries could learn a lot from this system.

More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.

The process began in the 1990s when Costa Rica, which sits at the intersection of two continents and two oceans, came to fully appreciate its incredible bounty of biodiversity — and that its economic future lay in protecting it. So it did something no country has ever done: It put energy, environment, mines and water all under one minister.

“In Costa Rica, the minister of environment sets the policy for energy, mines, water and natural resources,” explained Carlos M. Rodríguez, who served in that post from 2002 to 2006. In most countries, he noted, “ministers of environment are marginalized.” They are viewed as people who try to lock things away, not as people who create value. Their job is to fight energy ministers who just want to drill for cheap oil.

But when Costa Rica put one minister in charge of energy and environment, “it created a very different way of thinking about how to solve problems,” said Rodríguez, now a regional vice president for Conservation International. “The environment sector was able to influence the energy choices by saying: ‘Look, if you want cheap energy, the cheapest energy in the long-run is renewable energy. So let’s not think just about the next six months; let’s think out 25 years.’ ”

As a result, Costa Rica hugely invested in hydro-electric power, wind and geo-thermal, and today it gets more than 95 percent of its energy from these renewables. In 1985, it was 50 percent hydro, 50 percent oil. More interesting, Costa Rica discovered its own oil five years ago but decided to ban drilling — so as not to pollute its politics or environment! What country bans oil drilling?

Rodríguez also helped to pioneer the idea that in a country like Costa Rica, dependent on tourism and agriculture, the services provided by ecosystems were important drivers of growth and had to be paid for. Right now, most countries fail to account for the “externalities” of various economic activities. So when a factory, farmer or power plant pollutes the air or the river, destroys a wetland, depletes a fish stock or silts a river — making the water no longer usable — that cost is never added to your electric bill or to the price of your shoes.

Costa Rica took the view that landowners who keep their forests intact and their rivers clean should be paid, because the forests maintained the watersheds and kept the rivers free of silt — and that benefited dam owners, fishermen, farmers and eco-tour companies downstream. The forests also absorbed carbon.

To pay for these environmental services, in 1997 Costa Rica imposed a tax on carbon emissions — 3.5 percent of the market value of fossil fuels — which goes into a national forest fund to pay indigenous communities for protecting the forests around them. And the country imposed a water tax whereby major water users — hydro-electric dams, farmers and drinking water providers — had to pay villagers upstream to keep their rivers pristine. “We now have 7,000 beneficiaries of water and carbon taxes,” said Rodríguez. “It has become a major source of income for poor people. It has also enabled Costa Rica to actually reverse deforestation. We now have twice the amount of forest as 20 years ago.”

As we debate a new energy future, we need to remember that nature provides this incredible range of economic services — from carbon-fixation to water filtration to natural beauty for tourism. If government policies don’t recognize those services and pay the people who sustain nature’s ability to provide them, things go haywire. We end up impoverishing both nature and people. Worse, we start racking up a bill in the form of climate-changing greenhouse gases, petro-dictatorships and bio-diversity loss that gets charged on our kids’ Visa cards to be paid by them later. Well, later is over. Later is when it will be too late.

To see the orginal article by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN (three time Pulitizer prize winner) just click here

Thursday, May 14, 2009

April May 09 Newsletter

Our April-May 09 Newsletter has just been released.

The highlights are:

  • transfer of 87 ha to purchasers
  • some larger plots have been subdivided to smaller plots to cater for demand
  • progress of land registration process (on track for transfer of title to purchasers in August September)
  • further price increase at the end of June
  • Eco-credentials of the project
  • Inspection trips
  • Building of two guest eco-lodges

    To downlowad your copy just go the the download section of the website by clicking here
If you would like a printed copy of the newsletter, just give us a call (+353 1 272 4184) or send us an e mail to with your address details and we'll get a copy to you by return.

And of course if you have any questions about Finca Di Pacifico Dos please just contact us, we would be delighted to hear from you and discuss the project with you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Off the beaten track in Costa Rica!

by Costa Rica Pages:

Vacationing to Costa Rica often brings visitors along the tourist circuit from San Jose to Arenal, Jaco, Manuel Antonio and back. While each of these destinations merits its popularity thanks to natural beauty, tourist infrastructure and convenience, there are many other contenders out there that get overlooked for lacking this last detail. The following represent the best of “off the beaten track Costa Rica”, and mixing at least one of them into your vacation promises to add an element of depth and variety for one unforgettable Costa Rica vacation!

5. Inland Southern Costa Rica:
This is a destination for the true adventurer, surrounded by the most virgin rain forest, untouched wildlife and verdant nature. From the La Amistad national park, which traverses the border with Panama, to numerous indigenous populations and reserves, this area is as wild as it gets.

Talamanca, on the Caribbean side, provides a fading reminder of this country’s pre-Colombian past: the Bribri indigenous tribe has its reserve set up here, as well as two other native tribes, while the Boruca Indians can be visited closer to the southern Pacific coast. Visits to both reserves can be arranged, as well as backpacking hikes through the International park, or the highest peak in the country, which is also found here: Mount Chirripó. For those who claim Costa Rica is lacking in history and culture, I say, you’re just too scared to find your way off the beaten track to find it!

4. South Caribbean:
For those of you who picture Costa Rica as a tropical paradise where jungle meets white sand beaches and monkeys run wild, the Caribbean is for you. With a local culture more reflective of Jamaica than the rest of Costa Rica, residents here are laid back and most grew up speaking English! While towns like Cahuita and Puerto Viejo seem to cater to the budget crowd, there are a handful of boutique hotels, and beach homes that have popped up all over the coast. Maybe sleeping in a tree sounds like roughing it, but after a visit to the Tree House Lodge, you too will beg to differ.

Both Cahuita and Puerto Viejo have become home to a large number of international expats that inject their own flavor to local culture and cuisine. The Cahuita National Park and beach front Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge are home to turtles, monkeys, snakes, beautiful marine life and even large cats, though these are difficult to spot during the day.

3. Mountains of the Central Valley:
When most people think of Costa Rica, they think of warm beaches and active volcanoes and lots of heat. Coming from a cold climate, you might not be so inspired to mix a mountain eco-lodge with a fireplace and outdoor Jacuzzi into your vacation, but that may be just what you need after a sweaty week at the beach! Destinations like Cartago, the seat of the first colonial government in Costa Rica, or Bajos del Toro and Poas, which offer views of volcanoes and access to beautiful waterfalls and cloud forests, are often skipped en route to the beach. Luxurious boutique hotels are popping up in many of these spots, like El Silencio Eco-Lodge or the Peace Lodge, each promising a relaxing and unique breath of fresh air. Being less touristy, like all these locations, you will also get to see the ‘real’ Costa Rica as you pass through small towns, street side fruit stands, oxcarts and men on horseback.

2. Tortuguero

Tortuguero, like the Nicoya Peninsula, is one of those amazing destinations that gets overlooked due to the fact that it seems too far out of the way to fit into a short trip. I beg to differ, as getting there is an adventure in itself, and should not be seen as time wasted! Almost all the hotels in Tortuguero include three meals and transportation in the total price, and a two night stay is worth it. If you choose to take a bus shuttle from San Jose, an English speaking guide will take you for a typical Costa Rican meal, stop at a beautiful tropical garden that is home to monkeys, sloths, toucans and more, and teach you about the History of Costa Rica’s top export at a banana plantation. In a true sign of sustainability, it is the locals themselves that are your guides here, and you will find that many of them used to work on the banana plantations for 10 hours a day rain or shine. Tourism being their way up and out, they are genuinely happy to teach you about their land.

When you get to your destination, boat tours, turtle tours and hikes are all available and the main source of transportation is by boat, as the streets are natural rivers and canals, home to endangered manatees and caymans. No matter if you prefer relaxation, nature or a good dance fest at one of the local bars set overlooking the river, Tortuguero promises to offer an unforgettable experience.

1. Southern Nicoya Peninsula:
Another remote destination, there are actually two very simple ways to get to this area, though the final hour-long drive to the beautiful surf towns of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais cannot be avoided. One option is a domestic flight from San Jose to the Gulf of Nicoya town of Tambor. The short plane ride will let you skip over the gulf, though if you want to go really off the beaten path to the beautiful white sand beaches of Santa Teresa, you will still need to hire a taxi, or get a rental car in Tambor. The other option makes for a great loop in your Costa Rica vacation itinerary: from Jaco you can spend about $40 to take a speed boat from Herradura Beach, right to the little idyllic artist town of Montezuma. The boat trip runs twice each morning, though if you reserve in advance, you can a boat pick up your group whenever you please. This slightly adventurous trip cuts off hours of time that would have been spent taking the ferry from Puntarenas and then 1 ½ hours in a hot crowded bus to Montezuma.

From hidden waterfalls to iguanas and monkeys galore, these secluded beach towns make for an unforgettable adventure. Besides the dusty dirt roads, this area is an utter paradise. For those not on a budget, beautiful boutique hotels like Florblanca or Latitude 10 provide complete privacy and unbeatable proximity to nature. You won’t regret the trek once you get here. Ask supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who constructed a multi-million dollar beach home on the same shoreline.

Thank you to Costa Rica Pages for this article and just click here to read the original article

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Carbon Sequestration

CO2 is one of the primary greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Trees not only remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but they also act as "global air conditioners" and help to combat this unwelcome effect.

In 2002, the Home Depot Foundation partnered with Reforest The Tropics to sponsor a demonstration forest to explore the possibilities of balancing US greenhouse gas emissions while producing wood on farms in the tropics.

The forest was planted in the Atlantic Zone of Costa Rica on the Las Delicias Farm, which is owned by the Rojas family.

The graph shown here details the carbon sequestration and growth rate in the Home Depot forest. It provides the total sequestration (upper lines) and current annual sequestration (last 12 months; lower lines) in tonnes of carbon dioxide and cubic meters of wood production.

Long-term management and profitability for the farmer are the keys to sustainability and long-term carbon storage in farm forests. This project is managed by Reforest The Tropics under a 25-year agreement between RTT and the farm owners. The forest belongs to the farmer while the rights to the CO2 sequestered belong to the Home Depot during the agreement.

Projects like this are win/win/win with the farmers profiting from the timber production and the world benefiting from CO2 reduction whilst Home Depot complies with their ethical and legal obligations.

To read more about trees removing CO2 and reducing your Carbon Footprint, click here.

To read about "synthetic trees" currently under development to combat global warming, click here

But trees not only remove CO2 from the atmosphere but also reduce global warming by acting as "global air conditioners". To read more about this remarkable finding by the University of Leeds, just click here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coverage in the Sunday Times 23rd April 2009

‘Land-banking’ in Costa Rica lets you invest in a tree plantation to fund the building of a house there by Siobhan Maquire

Mention Costa Rica right now and many of us will probably think of Mel Gibson’s alleged beachfront frolics there with several women, including the singer Britney Spears. The Australian actor and director owns a 391-acre estate on Barrigona Beach in Guanacaste province on the Central American country’s northern Pacific coast, 300km west of the capital San Jose.

Apart from the Hollywood connection, Costa Rica has an unfortunate reputation as a sex-tourism hot spot and a seedy playground for wealthy Americans. These days, an alternative side to Costa Rica is being marketed to Irish investors — an opportunity to buy land on a teak tree plantation near the Gulf of Nicoya.

A Co Wicklow company, Costa Rica Invest, is selling plots to Irish plantation, between the town of Liberia and San Jose, as a long-term investment. Irish buyers can own a piece of Central America from as little as ¤12.60 “Our first investors bought riverview plots 18 to 24 months ago at ¤5.20 per sq m, but [now] those plots are selling for ¤12.60 per sq m, an increase of 142.3%,” says James Cahill, of Cost Rica Invest.

“Our land is the best of both worlds. It is not only a teak plantation with 12- to 14-year-old teak trees, which will provide a good return, but also the land is increasing in price.”

There is a catch: the minimum that can be bought is a 1,000-sq-m plot, which costs from ¤8,620, while the maximum investment is in a 30,000-sq-m piece of land, from ¤230,400. An acre of land on this teak plantation at Chomes, Puntarenas province, will set you back about ¤40,000.

The company is already selling to Dutch and French investors, many of whom hope to build properties on their plots. The owner of the land, a Dutch developer, Jos Van Veen, has plans to develop 19 holiday homes on one section, with a view to selling them on from August of this year. It may seem as though any teak plots bought by investors will go towards bankrolling this residential scheme, but Cahill says that landowners will able to do the same with their own plots. “Purchasing teak tree plots will go towards the development of these homes, but there is nothing to stop Irish investors from building homes themselves,” he says. “The teak plantation is zoned residential, so the trees can be cleared and planning permission applied for, which can take up to three months for approval.

“Investors are buying with a view to letting the trees mature over a six- to 10-year period, then selling on the timber and replanting the land, selling up, or earmarking it for residential use.” The company claims that the combination of teak and land values can turn ¤10,000 into ¤47,000 in just eight years, with a projected return on investment
of 30% per annum on teak and land investments over a six- to eight-year period.

Between 10% and 14% of this is from timber alone, while local land prices make up the remainder of the projection. Land values in the area increased by 40% in 2007. As with the rest of the world, however, Costa Rica, which can be reached in about 16 hours from Dublin airport including stop-overs, has been hit by a slump in prices in the past six months, and has a sluggish domestic property market. Selling in a recession is one thing, but selling land to wary buyers is even more difficult. Land banking, to give it its official title, though relatively new in the overseas market, should be approached with caution.
In Britain, there have been controversial cases that have exposed the uglier side of the practice. In one example, people spent ¤31,000 for an eighth-of-an-acre plot of field on green-belt land in the West Midlands for which planning permission would never be given. Cahill says that Costa Rica’s land laws allow no room for bogus land deals or cheats. “I understand that the idea of buying plots of land is something people are cautious of, and there have been bad examples in the past,” he says. “Our land transactions are completely upfront. What you buy is yours. Another person will not own that land or be able to buy it. The beauty of Costa Rica’s land registry means that once the deeds have been signed into your name on its online facility, then you own the land. “Even better is that constitutionally, you, as a non-Costa Rican, have the same ownership rights, so the land you buy rightfully belongs to you.”; 01 272 4184

See more press coverage of us on About Property , just click here.

See more press coverage of us on Property Wire, just click here.

See more press coverage on the Costa Rica Expat Blog, just click here.

See more press coverage on Inside Costa Rica, just click here.