Project Title

Advancing Development and Climate Change Resilience in the Central American Dry Corridor: Translating Science into Policy in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, An Interdisciplinary, International Collaboration


Dr. Hugo Hidalgo, Center for Geophysical Research, UCR

UCR Researchers

Name Institution
 Dr. Eric Alfaro UCR

Foreign Researchers

Name Department Country
 Dr. Yosef Gotlieb College of Education Jerusalem, Israel Israel
 Dr. Aliza Fleischer Department of Environmental Economics and Management Israel


To evaluate the physical and socioeconomic vulnerabilities of Guanacaste, in order to suggest solutions that would improve quality of life in this province
Specific 1
To assess regional trends relating to climate and water, natural resources, environment and ecology, and human (socioeconomic) development
Specific 2
To formulate a Natural Resource-Based Poverty Map that disaggregates relative areas of poverty in the region
Specific 3
To provide a multi-dimensional picture of the whole reality latent in the field through the inclusion of meaningful synthesis of data for natural systems and human
development. This includes the formation of a database that can be used in the future by
researchers working on related subjects
To discern regional development patterns spatially-disaggregated and mapped data for the UN’s Human Development Indicators (with particular emphasis on the Sustainable and Millennium Development Indicators) that can assist policymakers in prioritizing resource allocation and projects
Specific 4
To highlight the region as representative of the future challenges that global warming brings to the interface between society and nature and, hopefully, to develop solutions that can be emulated elsewhere.


The Central American Dry Corridor (CADC), a transborder region along the Pacific littoral, is an area that is especially susceptible to both the geophysical and socioeconomic stresses of climate variability (CV) and change (CC). Ten million people live in this region where food insecurity and other manifestations of entrenched poverty are evident. The region also experiences recurrent droughts and other hydro-climatic hazards as a result of natural climate variability, and in some locations the trends in drought indexes toward drier conditions are significant, apparently as a result of global warming. The inhabitants, mainly smallholder families, encounter threats to their livelihoods and ways of life. Rural outmigration to urban areas and across national and regional borders have resulted in social instability with growing food insecurity, the possibility of a refugee crisis and social conflict being of concern.The Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica is geographically, ecologically and climatically part of the CADC and is subject to the same environmental stresses characteristic of it. Costa Rica is at the top end of the Central American socioeconomic gradient and is distinguished by unparalleled achievements in vital development indicators such as education and health relative to the rest of the region. However, as a whole, Guanacaste is at a low level of development, including four cantons at the lowest level according to the national Social Development Index (Mideplan 2013).

These socioeconomic gaps are problematic in themselves and all the more so at a time when the region is facing natural resource challenges (water scarcity, land degradation) that may worsen as the climate changes. These environmental challenges threaten both the land-based livelihoods (agriculture, ranching) and the touristic sector, which is a leading source of revenue in the region.

The proposed project is based on the assessment that the problems of uneven development in Guanacaste and the CADC of which it is a part cannot be addressed without taking the effects of CV and CC into account. Similarly, efforts to build enhanced capacity to withstand the prospective impacts of environmental change must be consistent with the sustainable development of the region. In order to conform to these imperatives, a knowledge-rich, scientifically-rooted understanding of the physical, social and institutional challenges in the region is indispensable. Providing this knowledge base in order to guide policy toward effective action is the overall goal of the proposed Collaboration.

Given that physical, socioeconomic and institutional dimensions are involved, an interdisciplinary approach is indispensable. Tools from the natural sciences, the social sciences, agricultural sciences, resource management, public administration and the humanities — specifically those dealing with institution-building, policy and regional cooperation — are necessary to this enterprise. This Collaboration is inter-institutional and specialists therefrom three universities are involved.

The challenges encountered in Guanacaste are an extension of a cross-border, regional condition and the latter, which requires international cooperation. Israel, a Middle Eastern country that is subject to any of the same stressors that the CADC faces as a result of CC, has developed innovative land and water management systems to contend with these challenges. The allocation of resources it shares with its neighbors, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, especially water, has resulted in cooperative agreements on the levels of both government and civil society. Accordingly, there are lessons to be learned from the Israel experience and the partnership of a Tel Aviv University environmental institute in this Collaboration renders the latter international in character.

As detailed below, the Collaboration will 1) Conduct field research to profile of air-water-land dynamics in Guanacaste and simulate possible impacts that such changes might have the future, 2) Map the natural-resource basis for uneven development in the region, 3) Review the prevailing rural activity (agriculture, ranching, tourism) in Guanacaste and explore possibilities for improving conditions (physical, organizational, economic) that enhances development opportunities in a climate-resilient manner, 4) Formulate guidelines for ameliorating projected CV and CC-impacts and interventions needed to reduce development disparities in the region by improving the conditions of smallholders and expanding employment (MIDEPLAN 2014 ) and, 5) Propose and test consultative frameworks for bottom-up/top-down dialog (between government and local stakeholders) aimed to promote the proposed policy.

By achieving these objectives the Collaboration hopes to break new ground in the articulation of mitigating and adaptive strategies needed to contend with the impacts of global warming and related changes on the interface of society and nature.

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