The history of Selva Bananito is exceptional, and an important part of a visit to this area. Below is a brief description of the history of Selva Bananito, written by Jurgen Stein, the current owner of the lodge. I thought the story would best come from his words directly…
"Selva Bananito Lodge is built on our family farm, of which only one third is actually used for farming. Our father, Rudi Stein, who has farmed in Latin America since the 1950's, purchased the land for farming and wood exploitation in 1974. In the early years of his land tenure, he obtained a government permit to do selective logging on the forested portions of his land. This permit went mostly unused, and in 1994 the Stein family decided to declare the untouched two thirds of the farm (850 hectares or 2,000 acres) a private, biological reserve and built the lodge as an alternative source of income. This was a moral, not an economic decision, since it is unlikely that the income from the lodge will ever approximate the commercial value of the protected wood.
"The farmed portions of the land have a history worth telling: they were originally leased from the government in the 1920's by employees of a U.S.A.-based banana company. They harvested the primary forest along portions of the Bananito River valley while the company established mid-scale banana plantations in the nearby coastal region. A combination of factors, including a big recession in 1929, massive floods, and banana diseases, drove the company out in the 1920's and the land was left to fallow.
"When our father purchased the land in 1974, the former banana fields had reverted to secondary forest. He cleared the brush from this secondary growth and established a sustainable, integrated crop system combining plantain, cocoa, and dwarf coconut, all interspersed with the native tree known locally as laurel (Cordia alliodora). At first this system worked well because the plantains produced good crops. After the third year, however, the plantain succumbed to a serious fungal disease (sigatoca) and was eliminated. By the time the cocoa plants reached maturity, it became clear that the hybrid which Rudi Stein's bank had required him to plant as part of the loan contract, was of far inferior quality than traditional, local varieties. In the meantime, the dwarf coconuts developed a serious root disease that felled the majority of the plants, and the remainder was not worth harvesting because of poor market prices.
"After many years of trying out other farming alternatives, the farm is today home to organic banana plantations and a cattle breeding program intended to produce dual-purpose breeds, i.e., cattle as useful for milk production as for beef production. You will have a chance to learn more about the farm on our guided tour."
Selva Bananito's history is echoed throughout Central America, but unfortunately, much of the land does not share in the positive present and future as the Selva Bananito Reserve. Travelers have the opportunity to learn first hand the history of the lodge, and experience the environment that the reserve was built to protect.
Daily nature hikes into the reserve also give travelers plenty of opportunity to learn a little more about the valuable flora and fauna.