Blossoming and Building at Finca La Bella

- Posted by Publications Committee in Resources,  | 3 min read
By Os Cresson

Recently several members of QEW visited Finca La Bella in the San Luis Valley in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Bill and Alice Howenstine were accompanied by their daughter, son-in-law, and two high school-aged granddaughters, and Os Cresson was with his great-nephew, also of high school age. This was a special experience because Bill and Alice worked with many others to found Finca La Bella 20 years ago, and they have hosted Costa Ricans from San Luis at their farm in Illinois. Previous reports on the Finca La Bella Project can be found in previous BeFriending Creation issues from May-June 2011 and Sept-Oct 2011 and on the QEW website.

Bill, Alice, and Os joined Friends in worship one sunny Sunday morning in the old wooden meetinghouse in Monteverde. They met with Guillermo Vargas, a member of the Monteverde Institute board, and with Katy van Dusen, clerk of Monteverde Monthly Meeting, and had many visits to Finca La Bella and other places in San Luis Valley.

Debra Howenstine and her daughters were able to stay in the home of Gilber Lobo and Amalia Rodriguez, who had known Bill and Alice and Os 20 years ago. We were shown how coffee and sugar cane is grown, harvested, and processed; and we visited the papermaking factory of seven women led by Yadira Ramirez, president of the Finca La Bella farmers association.

We spent one morning with Eugenio Vargas, a neighbor of Finca La Bella who had visited the Howenstines in Illinois long ago. He was a close associate of Ann Kriebel, whose vision and work gave impetus to what has happened in San Luis during the last 30 years. Another morning we visited Lucky and Wolf Guindon, who helped find the farm that became Finca La Bella and were catalysts in building the relationship between Monteverde Monthly Meeting and FCUN/QEW. We also visited their son, Benito Guindon, who for many years has been a member of the Ann Kriebel/San Luis Working Group, which is now called the Finca La Bella Project. There was even time for lunch at the University of Georgia biology station across the road from Finca La Bella. We enjoyed a particularly memorable evening when 60 members of the Finca La Bella community hosted a community dinner in their library building.

There is good news from Finca La Bella: a commission of five members was formed, consisting of two people from the parceleros’ organization (Asociación Agrícola Finca La Bella Ann Kriebel), and one each from the Monteverde Institute, the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de San Luis, and the Monteverde Monthly Meeting. The commission negotiated an agreement to pass the land title from the Monteverde Institute to the parceleros. This agreement was accepted by the Institute board and by a general assembly of the Asociación. The land that was mostly open pasture 20 years ago is now a dense combination of coffee, banana, sugar cane, papaya, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens. More than 10 percent of Finca La Bella is now forested, and this will be protected by a conservation easement. Details still need to be worked out, particularly involving rights-of-way across the common forest. The parceleros will each pay the legal costs of the transfer of their titles, and the QEW Finca La Bella Project has offered to pay the costs of establishing the conservation easement for the forested land. As a result of these negotiations, there has been increased cooperation between the parceleros and their neighbors in San Luis through their mutual commitment to the valley’s development association.

At the supper meeting with the parceleros, Bill spoke of his conviction that although some of the future is unclear, we see the tremendous success that parceleros have already achieved. This is a wonderful outcome for a project as complex as this one.