The one constant among the folks we met in Costa Rica was that income diversification was the rule rather than the exception. In the small community of Bambu we met Brauli who primarily supports his family by working as a firefighter in Bri Bri. Beyond that, however, Brauli supplements this work in a number of ways--several of which were predictable--and one of which was a big surprise!Rather than farming land some distance from his home, Brauli had several acres of banana trees immediately next to his home. Bananas are everywhere in Talamanca but what was hiding in the shade of these banana trees was something I wasn't expecting to see -- a large man-made pond where Brauli raised tilapia. And these just weren't for consumption at home, but rather are sold locally to families and individuals in Bambu and the surrounding small communities.
This is the type of initiative and economic activity that is made possible by the sale of bikes and membership in the local credit co-op. Brauli is an important member of the Bambu co-op and a vocal proponent of the financial education and guidance that the MiBici co-ops provide their members. After an ill-advised experience with a high interest loan through a commercial bank when he was younger, Brauli was introduced to the community co-op in 2015 and has been reaping the benefits ever since.
Beyond repairing and selling bikes locally, Brauli is able to connect with other communities in Talamanca through his work as a firefighter and has even supplied bikes to bike rental operations in Puerto Viejo. Bikes are the most common way for students in Bambu and the adjoining communities to get to and from school and we saw many primary and secondary school students riding along decked out in their white button down shirts and blue pants making their way to their respective classrooms. This is easily done even in rural parts of Costa Rica as the government ensures there are schools no more than 3-5 miles from any community.
Brauli is a great example of the success of the cooperative credit model that MiBici is supporting all across Costa Rica as they work to build strong communities and empower individuals with access to credit and financial resources. Through these avenues Brauli has been able to provide affordable transportation to his peers and also develop novel ways to support his family.