Aiko started with a gut reaction to a crisis. No calculations, no profound studies nor plans.
The primary goal was to save the rainforest from being logged – period. This goal has remained the same since 1996.
But let me take a step back and tell you the whole story so you can get a feeling for who we are and what motivates us as a team:
What does a German do in Costa Rica?
When I was 16, I moved with my parents from Germany to the US. Two years later, I decided to go to Boston for my studies rather than return to Europe. And no, I didn´t study biology or anything like that, although I was close to entering for a physics degree. I studied management and business. After three and a half years in the New England setting, I finished my degree and longed for something new, something warmer than Massachussetts or Germany. Remembering that I also wanted to learn Spanish, I enrolled in a language school in Costa Rica. The plan was to stay for 1 or 2 months. One thing led to another and 2 years passed studying the language, getting my MBA and travelling extensively through Costa Rica.
During one of my trips by motorcycle, I came to Puerto Viejo, Bribri, Sixaola… Talamanca. And I just loved it. My university friend, Gio, remembered that his uncle, Luis, had escaped to the area years ago and we decided to find him. And we did. He had lots to tell us. Stories about his farm, sustainability, politics, his time in Cuba, ecological agriculture, fish farming, his dogs and the biodiversity surrounding us. I was overwhelmed by the plethora of “stuff” that at first glance just seemed “green” around us.
So how did Aiko become Aiko?
As Luis noticed my sincere interest in our green surroundings, he told me about his neighbor´s land. 29ha of primary rainforest. Paths were already made for tractors and trees were numbered with red spray-paint for logging. The owner, Doña Mercedes, had sold the wood because she was under pressure from the bank to pay back loans.
Yes, cutting these rainforest giants was already illegal in 1996, but truckloads of valuable timber left Talamanca to the port of Limón every night anyway.
The only way to save the rainforest was to buy the finca and throw the logger off the land.
Now I was lucky enough to have a somewhat adventurous father. When I asked him if he would be interested in buying the land, he called me back 24hrs later to tell me: “I think it´s a good idea. But since I don´t know Costa Rica nor speak the language, buy it under your name”. 23 years old, how could I have said no. I admit I didn´t sleep for a few nights and I had no idea where this would lead. But it felt right and I named the land after a cute cat back in Boston named Aiko, which means “love-child” in japanese. Pretty corny, isn´t it 🙂