Costa Rica Scores Major Environmental Win with Launch of World-First Land Use Monitoring System

May 25, 2017


Costa Rica scored a major win against illegal deforestation from agro-commodity production earlier this week with the launch of a unique new land use monitoring system. The Land Use Change Monitoring System within Production Landscapes (MOCUPP) ( is the world’s first to overlay satellite images with land registry records on an annual basis for an entire national territory. Now, on an annual basis, the system will produce images showing forest loss and gain from agro-commodity production across Costa Rica, starting with pineapple.

Costa Rica is one of the world’s biggest pineapple producing countries. MOCUPP is part of a wider national effort to tackle serious social and environmental concerns in this critical sector, worth US$ 800 million to the national economy. Already, MOCUPP has developed imagery showing the rapid spread of pineapple cultivation in Costa Rica between 2000 and 2015.

It reveals that over the past 15 years, the country has lost more than 5,000 hectares of forest cover, the size of over 3,000 football pitches, due to the expansion of pineapple farming. The system is also currently developing baselines and annual monitoring for other agro-commodities, including sugar cane and palm oil plantations. The aim is that by 2020, all of Costa Rica’s major commodity exports will be monitored on an annual basis for deforestation activity. An annual set of images generated by MOCUPP will be published through the National Territorial Information System web tool (, accessible by the public.

Meanwhile, property records where forest loss or gain has occurred will be made available to authorities and private sector buyers. This will enable authorities to act swiftly against those violating the 1996 Forest Law, and to provide incentives to those increasing forest cover on their lands. For example, the Payment of Ecosystem Services scheme by the National Forestry Financing Fund could benefit from this service to monitor private landowners who are protecting their forest cover. It will also allow buyers sourcing agro-commodities from Costa Rica to guarantee deforestation-free supply chains for those products covered by the system. 

The Ministry of Environment, the National Registry, the National Geographical Institute and the Center of High Technology of Costa Rica, with support from the Green Commodities Programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN REDD Programme and the Global Environment Facility developed the system.

It has generated keen interest from the governments of Paraguay, Madagascar, Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire, who are also facing the challenge of reducing deforestation from valuable commodity supply chains. The UNDP Green Commodities Programme is now working with these countries to replicate this system.

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