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For Costa Rica’s Indigenous Bribri women, agroforestry is an act of resistance and resilience

Monica Pelliccia | Costa Rica

Elsa López in her ancestral agroforestry plot featuring cocoa, palms, timber-yielding and fruit trees, and medicinal plants.

The Bribri are one of the world’s few matrilineal societies: the land is handed down from mother to daughter. Cocoa is at the center of a noteworthy ancestral practice, forming the core of their sacred rituals. Cocoa represents women in Bribri cosmovision, they drink it for marriages when a person dies, when they are pregnant for the first time.

Image by Monica Pelliccia for Mongabay

In Costa Rica’s Talamanca region, Indigenous Bribri women are championing sustainable agroforestry practices in a tradition that stretches back for millennia. Known as fincas integrales, it’s a system that mimics the diversity of the forest: timber trees provide shade for fruit trees, which in turn shelter medicinal plants, amid all of which livestock and even wildlife thrive.

Cocoa is at the center of Bribri ancestral practice, forming the core of their sacred rituals. They are one of the few matrilineal societies in the world, taking back their leadership after decades of decline.

In the surrounding of the Bribri fields, the Talamanca region is also home to vast monoculture plantations of crops like bananas, a different farming system that relies on the heavy use of pesticides, a practice that the Bribri women say destroys the land.

Bribri's fincas integrales are part of an agricultural system developed by Indigenous peoples that produce food, fuel, and medicines support biodiversity, build soil horizons and water tables, and sequesters 45 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere globally.

Meet Elsa, Xiomara, Airlinne, Marina, and Maruja part of the Bribri community.

Images by Monica Pelliccia for Mongabay.



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