Sustainable Agriculture in Costa Rica

Program Details

Where: La Selva Biological Station.

When: Dec 13 – 19, 2017

Duration:1 weeks

Language: English

Deadline:November 30, 2017


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Sustainable Agriculture in Costa Rica

Agriculture faces the unprecedented challenge of feeding a rapidly increasing world population, while global warming, environmental degradation, and some socio-economic pressures threaten yields. Now more than ever, it is imperative to seek sustainable methods to avoid further degradation of the ecosystem services that agriculture depends upon.

This short course offers an exciting opportunity to learn first-hand about tropical agriculture in different agro-ecological regions in Costa Rica. It will emphasize production models that are both environmentally and socially sustainable. We will visit plantations in the humid tropical lowlands: e.g. bananas, pineapple, black pepper, and ornamentals, and in the highlands: coffee, and organic vegetables. We will also explore alternative inputs, social organization of production, and marketing. Includes visits to the tropical rain forest, and some training facilities on sustainable agriculture.

Offered to faculty, graduate, and advanced undergraduate students from Latin and North America.

Course participants are eligible for pilot and research awards provided by the OTS Fellowship program. Students most complete the course successfully to be eligible. For more information click here


Program Description

We will visit plantations in the humid tropical lowlands: e.g. bananas, pineapple, black pepper, and ornamentals, and in the highlands: coffee, and organic vegetables. We will also explore alternative inputs, social organization of production, and marketing. Includes visits to the tropical rain forest, and some training facilities on sustainable agriculture.


Sustainable Agriculture in Costa Rica makes the most out of the students’ time. A students’ day during the Sustainable Agriculture course will usually begin at 06:00 hrs with breakfast at 06:00 or 06:30 and a start to the field by 07:00 hrs. Lunch will be at 12:00 hrs. (Lunch may be out in the field depending on the circumstances) and dinner at 18:00 hrs.

We will have a review of the next day's work after dinner, usually followed by a lecture and occasional general group discussions or data analysis. The pace can be overwhelming at first, but you will be surprised how quickly you get used to it, and by how much you see and learn.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Sustainable Agriculture in Costa Rica course costs $1,700 per student. Students from OTS-member institutions have a reduced tuition of $1,400 (less a $300 OTS scholarship).

Cost includes all lodging and meals, transportation during the course, and all course materials. Personal expenses such as laundry, mail, entertainment, international travel, airport tax ($29), insurance, medical expenses, etc. are not covered. In addition, students planning additional time in Costa Rica before or after the course should allow $50-60 per day.

Course fees are due in full one month prior to start of course; the first $500 constitutes a nonrefundable deposit.

Additional scholarships may be available for students with demonstrated financial need. If you are interested in a partial scholarship, please make sure to include a request for a partial scholarship along with the rest of the required documents. The letter should outline your financial situation, previous scholarships/grants (if any), and the amount you are seeking from outside sources to cover the costs of the course. The letter will help us asses your situation individually and determine your eligibility for a partial scholarship if you are selected for the course.

Please note that the scholarships are awarded and applied only to the tuition/course cost. They cannot be applied in any other way, for example travel expenses. Although we may be able to award a partial scholarship, we recommend that you seek funds for the course outside through you own means, such as applying for grants from your department or organizing small fundraisers.

Application Process

Course enrollment is limited to 15 students. Selection of participants is highly competitive. Qualified students from OTS member schools will have first priority, and any number of applications will be considered from each OTS institution. Applications from non-OTS institutions are welcome. The course is taught in English; however, Spanish is useful, and participants are urged to develop basic Spanish skills.

How to apply?

The application process is simple.

Click on the Apply Now button on the program page and download the application form.

Along with the application form application, you will be required to send the following documents in pdf format.

  • Curriculum Vitae (4 page max.)
  • Letter of Interest

You will be required to request the following:

  • One letter of reference.

Please request that these documents be sent directly to We will not accept any reference letter, supplement or endorsement that is not sent directly from the referral person.

Prospective applicants from member institutions must consult with one of the two representatives of the OTS Assembly of Delegates at their institution.

Application fee:

A processing fee of $50 must accompany the completed application (please make out a check to Organization for Tropical Studies, North American Office, Box 90630, Durham, NC 27708 0630). You may also pay via credit card. Please contact if you have any questions.

Accommodations & Meals

It is important to recognize that the OTS program differs from your typical on-campus life.

You will be a guest in Costa Rica, and consequently you will need to be sensitive to and respectful of Costa Rican customs and culture. In general, Costa Ricans (“Ticos” and “Ticas”) are warm, friendly, and courteous. We encourage you to interact with many Ticos, and we hope you will develop some good friendships.

It is important to remember that certain behaviors that are acceptable among fellow classmates at an OTS site may not be acceptable when dealing with non-course participants. For example, Costa Ricans tend to be conservative in their attitudes toward nudity and sex. Thus, stages of undress that are acceptable and inevitable in field station dormitories are offensive in public. In addition, nudity on beaches, no matter how apparently deserted, is inappropriate.

Costa Ricans tend to be much more tolerant of noise (say, the loud music coming from the neighbor’s house or the children shouting and running in the living room) than many of us are in the U.S. While we ask that you be respectful of Costa Rican ways and customs, we also understand that cultural norms can often be subtle, complex, and even counter-intuitive. If you would like some advance preparation regarding Ticos and their way of life, we suggest you read Biesanz, Richard et al. The Costa Ricans (1982, Waveland Press, Inc., ISBN 0-88133-340-9) before coming to Costa Rica. Other sources you should consider are Palmer and Molina´s (2004) The Costa Rica Reader History, Culture, Politics (ISBN 0-8223-3372-4), Baker´s (2015) Moon Costa Rica and Coates' (1997) Central America A Natural and Cultural History (ISBN 0-300-08065-4). Please feel free to ask OTS staff about any questions you have regarding cultural differences and norms at any time.

Though you may have one or two roommates on campus, in Costa Rica you will be living closely with 15 other students and two to five professors or field assistants. This means communication and respect will be crucial. All of us need to be as open, honest, and cooperative as possible. We also need to have sincere respect for one another, regardless of different opinions and lifestyles. This includes respect for privacy, respect for rules and regulations, and even respect for the fact that unpredictability is an inherent feature of field-based programs such as ours. Indeed, next to communication and cooperation, flexibility and a good sense of humor are the most important characteristics of a successful student in our program. By living and working with the same people for several weeks, you will undoubtedly develop a number of very close friendships. The combination of uncomfortable (being wet, muddy, and tired), wacky (a bunch of Gringos on the dance floor), wonderful situations (watching iguanas sunning on the bridge at La Selva), and truly amazing (interacting with people from all sorts of social backgrounds in very different settings) creates great images and memories. You will, for sure, share these with your fellow participants well beyond the end of the course.

As OTS students, you must not only be proactive in asking the questions (and finding the answers) that are important to you, you must also be ready to share your own knowledge and experience with the rest of the group.

Passport & Visa Information

You must have a valid Passport to travel to Costa Rica. It is important that the passport does not expire within 6 months of entering Costa Rica. If you are NOT a citizen of a North American or European country, you will probably need a special visa to get into Costa Rica. We recommend that you contact your respective consulate or embassy services to determine if you need a visa to travel to Costa Rica. It is important to take into account the requirements to get a visa approved before you apply for one of our courses. If you are accepted into one of our courses we will provide any information necessary (within reason) to help with the visa application. Please keep in mind that visa application processes can take several months depending on the country of issue. For more information on this topic, please visit

U.S. citizens entering Costa Rica are automatically granted a 90-day tourist Visa. Students planning to stay in Costa Rica after the program end date need to take this into account.

Please consult OTS if you have any questions about this.