The Southern Caribbean is comprised of a historical experience that extends back more than 100 years when the first immigrants to the area arrived from Jamaica and other countries north and south of Costa Rica along the Atlantic Coast. They were fishermen who built their homes along the beach for convenience, as fishing was their main source of livelihood. In the surrounding forests, they cultivated crops of food for their livelihood and to sell, as in the case of cacao and coconut production. They developed a sustainable family‐based economy that recognized from the beginning the importance of living in harmony with the environment.
This vision, based on a balanced relationship or co-existence with nature, was a primary resource of all social, economic and human development. The people themselves with little government intervention have used this development model for decades in the region, which is still characterized largely by a family‐based economy with micro‐tourism enterprises combined in many cases with sustainable agriculture and/or fishing or artisanry. The model is designed to protect and balance the rights of the people and the environment, which in the past led to the creation of a number of special environmental reserves that today require a policy where co-management can contribute to co‐existence between peoples and environment in unprecedented ways.