Project Contributors: Hugh Govan with Rigoberto Carrera
There are eight indigenous groups in Costa Rica, numbering some 63,800 people, which comprise 1.7% of the national population. Half of them are now settled in 24 reservations or territories, which cover an area of approximately 325,470ha or 6.3% of Costa Rica. The indigenous groups are: the Cabécar, Bribri, Brunca or Boruca, Térraba, Huetar, Guatuso or Maleku, Chorotega and Ngäbe-Buglé. In 2001, two new reservations were created by law: Altos de San Antonio (for the Ngäbe-Buglé) and China Kichá (for the Cabécar).
The Ngäbe people number some 180,000, principally located in Panama, although around 4000 reside in southern Costa Rica, close to the Panama border. The Ngäbe- Buglé of Costa Rica inhabit five reservations or territories in the south of the country: Coto Brus, Abrojos Montezuma, Conte Burica, Altos de San Antonio and Guaymí de Osa. The 23,600ha of Ngäbe reservations maintain around 70% forest cover, consisting of a rich variety of habitats encompassing three of the five elevational zones found in Costa Rica (tropical, premontane and lower montane) and three of the four humidity provinces (rain, wet and moist). Examples are the tropical very wet forests of the Osa Reservation and the lower montane moist forests of Coto Brus.
The Costa Rican Ngäbe are among the poorest people in the country, but until recently there were almost no development initiatives taking place in their territories. This is due in part to difficulties in funding and cash flow problems. In part, it is also due to their legal status: the Ngäbe were not accepted as equal-rights Costa Rican citizens by Congress until 1993. The Ngäbe face a variety of major challenges, including the occupation of up to 25% of the reservation’s area by non-indigenous settlers, poor access to health services and limited options for the production of food and cash. The abysmal indicators for all these problems are at odds with the generally good quality of life experienced by the majority of Costa Ricans.
Using a co-management approach in collaboration between the Ngäbe people and the NGO Fundación TUVA, the project “Support Project for the Ngäbe Indigenous People” (Proyecto de Apoyo al Pueblo Indígena Ngäbe) was set up to strengthen the organizational capacity and leadership of the Ngäbe, in order to reverse the loss of their culture, recover traditional political institutions and traditional medicine, support territorial defence and appropriate management practices, and improve continue reading–>