Landscapes, memories and water: Narratives, perceptions and policy-making on land and water in Monteverde, Costa Rica


I.T. Porras; M. Miranda

Type of Document:
Research Report


The Centre for Land Use and Water Resource Research (CLUWRR)

Date of Publication:

Place of Publication:
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


This report focuses on situations displayed in (3) and (4), where policy-makers and science fail to take into account people’s sets of perceptions and the particular history of a region. The report draws on evidence from the Monteverde area in Costa Rica, where a large study is currently being conducted to determine the links between cloud forest and water flows, as well as the socio-economic impacts and market opportunities associated with changes in land use. While the combination of both studies will provide important base information to inform a possible negotiation system among stakeholders downstream and upstream to improve watershed management, it remains unclear what their own perceptions are when it comes to understanding relations between land use and water, and what are the main drivers of land use changes according to local history.

The report has three components: 1. A detailed review of the different stakeholders and economic activities in the study area; 2. A narrative analysis, which collects information from local stakeholders, especially from the remaining pioneer settlers in the area and their descendants, and investigates the historical settlement pattern of land use changes and its relation to water resources. It also provides information about future trends of land use changes in the Monteverde area.

3. An analysis of the local perceptions and beliefs of the relation between land use and water. The information from this study will be contribute to the design of land use scenarios dependent on the support of the different stakeholders within the watershed.

Table of Contents:

1 Introduction 1.1 objectives of this study 1.2 Methodology of analysis 2 General description of the area 3 Reconstructing the history through narratives 3.1 Early settlers, before the 1950s 3.2 Local forests transformed into pasture, 1950-1985 3.3 The technological and ecotourism era: 1985-2000s 4 Local perceptions of water resources 4.1 “It used to rain more” – Popular perceptions in Monteverde 4.2 Downstream perceptions 4.3 The scientific evidence 4.4 Overlapping the results 5 Effects over policy making 5.1 Upstream/downstream compensations 5.2 Markets for Watershed Services in Costa Rica 5.3 Markets for Watershed Services in Monteverde 6 Summary and recomendations 6.1 Science and popular perceptions differ 6.2 Land use changes fast 6.3 Government perception is rather poor 6.4 A people-centered approach 6.5 Setting up negotiations for markets has a long way to go 7 Bibliography 8 Appendix

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