You are probably wondering one of two things – possibly both – what are Chipko’s and what do they have to do with Guanacaste?
Well first off, Chipko is a type of flip-flop sandal designed originally in India by founder Priya Dua.
The word “Chipko” is a Sandskrit word meaning to stick. However there is another meaning more fitting – an 18th century reference to a Himalayan movement where villagers tied themselves to trees to prevent their cutting. Thus the term “tree hugger” today!
Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, Guanacaste was the scene of massive deforestation while ranchers cut many of the trees there to make way for cattle farms to tap in to the lucrative beef supply market to the likes of McDonalds and other fast food joints.
It was during this time that the first National Forests & Wildlife Reserve was established to help protect what was remaining from suffering the same fate.
Back to Priya again…
Having an applied science and mathematics degree, Priya Dua was skeptical about entering in to the market she knew nothing about.
“What my math degree really taught me,” she says, “was to realize that if there is a problem, the there must be a solution, because there is no such thing as an unsolvable problem.”
As Priya would continue to find a sponsor who could point her in the right direction for helping her brand become more eco-friendly than it already was, Priya would soon discover it was right under her nose the entire time.
Located in her hometown in the USA – the non-profit Save Nature Group in San Francisco, California, seemed to fit the bill.
The Save Nature Group had a program already in place to save the forests of Guanacaste, but with little publicity.
Norman Gershenz, CEO of SaveNature.org told Chipko’s founders that the group makes certain that the money goes directly to saving the dry forest. It also educates school children within a 50-kilometer radius of the conservation area to cherish nature.
But it’s not all about sandals, although their success is central to what the Dua’s want to accomplish. “We’re excited not only about the tangible product but the intangible cause it represents,” Priya says.
For every pair of the sandals sold in the United States, the company places funds to support 100 square feet of forest in Guanacaste province in Costa Rica.