River row between Panama and Costa Rica | Global Ideas | DW | 25.06.2013
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River row between Panama and Costa Rica

The river that runs between Costa Rica and Panama has led to more trouble than good in recent years. The river has gradually been changing course, threatening the existence of farmers and making cooperation difficult.

Project type: Adaptation methods

Project goal: Maintain biodiversity, guarantee food security through awareness and education in water management, prevent border conflicts

Project size: 10,000 people who live on 289,000 hectares of land (81 percent in Costa Rica, 19 percent in Panama) benefit from the project

Communities living along the border of Panama and Costa Rica depend on the Sixaola River for their livelihoods and for transport. But the river is increasingly turning into a threat, too. Climate change has brought heavy floods and mudslides to the region, destroying farmlands and harvests. Now, an organization called the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is helping residents on both sides of the river learn how to defend themselves and adapt to the changing conditions. As climate change alters the river’s course, the border between the two countries has become more fluid. Sometimes farms belonging to Costa Rican farmers end up on Panama soil or the other way round. That is why the IUCN is also working to mediate cross-border climate conflicts. Indigenous communities in the region, however, are taking a wholly different approach. The Bribris people, for example, are far removed from border disputes or even a national identity. Still, they are fighting to adapt to the consequences of climate change and keep their cocoa crops alive.

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