The Complementary Currency of Monteverde, Costa Rica

Cover Photo: Irene G. Chen | Text: Mariana Zumbado Solano | Translation & Editing: Sebastian Klemm

Sign up 6 July 2022 “Regenerative Destinations & Resilient Communities” Online Synergy EventSession 2 will feature presentations by Jannelle Wilkins from Monteverde Community Fund (Costa Rica) about “The role of community foundations in supporting local initiatives. The why and how of developing a local currency” – as well as by Dounia Saeme from DAOnia (Morocco, Canada), Erik Zvaigzne from Convergence.Tech (Canada), Marco Giraldo from TourCert (Germany), Philipe Achille Villiers from Value Instrument (Germany). – Session 1 will feature presentations by Andrew Keast & Rohan Clarke from Wayfairer (Australia), Francisco Rodrigues from Ideas for Change, FiturNext Observatory (Spain), Martin Balas from TourCert (Germany)

This article has been written in Spanish by Mariana Zumbado Solano and was first published at DELFINO and in English at Futuris Consulting. Mariana Zumbado Solano is a geographer with experience in Indigenous Territories in Costa Rica, agricultural markets, territorial diagnostics and environmental education. Mariana Zumbado Solano works as a social and environmental consultant at Futuris Consulting, a boutique sustainability consulting company with a wide international outlook, that provides services on environment, social and occupational health and safety.

A few months ago, looking for a home and a community in line with my principles, I moved to the mythical and remote Monteverde, one of the Costa Rica’s major ecotourism destinations.

Since arriving in Monteverde, I have discovered what I was looking for and much more. I have flown in “aerial yoga classes”, peeked into the hidden world of orchids, started to explore the taste of coffee and followed the captivating trail of a Quetzal.

However, what I have fallen most in love with are the small and big actions that many people in this place undertake, with the purpose of developing a community in harmony with nature.

One such project is Verdes, a complementary currency that was proposed during the first months of the pandemic, when tourism in Monteverde vanished and most of the families in the area were left without work. This led the community to think of solutions and as a result this currency was created, which allows people to activate bartering and provide for their basic needs.

Complementary Currencies

They have existed for thousands of years, when different communities sought ways to pay for the goods they needed to meet their needs. However, the concept of complementary currencies began to be used in the 21st century and was proposed as a monetary system created outside the official currencies of a country, with the aim of promoting economic, social and environmental projects. As its name suggests, it is a system that aims to complement, not replace, the official currency. Its purpose also has a moral background, which seeks to promote principles contrary to the traditional monetary system.

Conventional currencies promote dynamics such as competition, reductionism, hierarchy and verticality. Complementary currencies promote values such as cooperation, equality, synchronicity, trust and justice. The former are issued and controlled by central governments and the latter by communities.

Over time, complementary currencies have also been called local, regional, social, alternative or community currencies. In any case, regardless of how we name them, they have all been created with the purpose of constituting economic systems that are less speculative and that improve the social welfare of the territories in which they are used.

Moreover, complementary currencies play an important role in the recognition of people’s tasks, promote a sense of belonging, encourage interaction between communities and give a name and a surname to the products we consume. All this instead of the individualism and consumption without control or conscience that conventional currencies promote.

The Local Use Case

In Monteverde, the complementary currency Verdes has been created with three main objectives:

  • Strengthening the local economy, by promoting exchanges between its members
  • Rewarding environmental actions and volunteering
  • Increasing economic resilience

The first objective has been achieved through a virtual platform where people in the community can offer their products for sale. It is also achieved through the monthly meetings and the green market where producers and artisans sell their products in a percentage of Verdes, on the first and third Saturday of each month

The second objective is achieved every time those who attend environmental education events, such as the permaculture classes held once a month, are paid in local currency. Or those who adopt sustainable practices such as composting organic food at home or walking to work.

The third objective is the most difficult to achieve, as ensuring the economic resilience of the community poses many challenges. However, the pandemic showed that this currency solved many needs of people who were able to exchange goods using Verdes.

On the other hand, the reluctance of many people to face a transition and use a complementary system to the traditional one has been the main obstacle that this process has encountered along the way. The need of families at the beginning of the pandemic made it possible to try out new possibilities, but now many do not find it necessary or important to keep this project alive.

Verdeswill hopefully remain among us and even replicate this type of project in other communities. In that way we will be able to live in communities where collective learning prevails over individualism and where fairer social dynamics, more responsible consumption, more real economies and greener lifestyles are fostered.

Sign up 6 July 2022 “Regenerative Destinations & Resilient Communities” Online Synergy EventSession 2 will feature presentations by Jannelle Wilkins from Monteverde Community Fund (Costa Rica) about “The role of community foundations in supporting local initiatives. The why and how of developing a local currency” – as well as by Dounia Saeme from DAOnia (Morocco, Canada), Erik Zvaigzne from Convergence.Tech (Canada), Marco Giraldo from TourCert (Germany), Philipe Achille Villiers from Value Instrument (Germany). – Session 1 will feature presentations by Andrew Keast & Rohan Clarke from Wayfairer (Australia), Francisco Rodrigues from Ideas for Change, FiturNext Observatory (Spain), Martin Balas from TourCert (Germany)

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