Along Costa Rica’s once remote south Pacific coast, a crisis looms. The access to Potable water, one of the most basic of human rights, is in jeopardy. Unplanned development has parceled coastal mountains and rainforest, unleashing a cycle of erosion and pollution that gravely threatens the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, Latin America’s first marine park, and the region’s sustainable tourism-based economy.

In this film, learn about one small community’s inspiring struggle to organize and fight to defend its access to clean, dependable drinking water. CAVU takes you high above, exposing the damage from the air, then back to land and sea, giving voice to local citiizens, scientists and activists.

Immediately after production, this film was screened in the community hall amidst a crowd of more than three hundred residents. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and marked the first step in an educational outreach campaign by The Nature Conservancy and CAVU to promote sustainable development in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

Project Purpose

To conduct an educational campaign in the Fila Costena about the significance of its watersheds to the quality life, economics and future ecological sustainability of the region. The project will focus on local community empowerment of the management of its water resource through the increased education and community involvement in protecting that source via legal and local action.

The Partners

CAVU is a US public charity seeking to educate and engage stakeholders about best management practices of natural resources. To do this CAVU works with strategic partners to amplify their messages to rural and hard to reach audiences through participatory cinema .

The Nature Conservancy of Costa Rica has years of experience working with communities in the region of the Osa creating regulatory frameworks for park and natural resource management as well as development guidelines. To implement these plans on a broad scale the Conservancy needs to reach a wider audience and educate the general public about the management plans and techniques in order to increase the effectiveness of the implementation.

The third partner is the Uvita ASADA, located in Bahia Uvita, which manages the “Cuenca Uvita”. The project aims to bolster the strength of the ASADA and their ongoing initiatives by encouraging more people in the community to support and participate in the ASADA so that it may effectively manage the community’s water resource. The success of the Uvita ASADA will be used as an example for other communities in the Fila Costena to act locally to maintain a healthy and plentiful water source.


During the last 20 years Costa Rica has been at the forefront of EcoTourism not only in Central America but worldwide. In 2007, the Yale School of Forestry ranked Costa Rica was fifth in the world for its environmental performance. As a world leader in EcoTourism, Costa Rican tourism, of all kinds, has exploded over the last 10 years. Furthermore, Costa Rica’s popularity as a second home destination among North Americans and Europeans has created a huge economic boom in the construction and services sectors. These factors, coupled with lax property laws and insufficient infrastructure such as safe roads, access to potable water, water treatment plants, police and fire stations, etc. are jeopardizing the fragile and coveted ecosystems of the region, which have inspired the growth.

This boom is creating problems for Costa Ricans. One of the gravest problems in the short term is the growing lack of access to potable water. Water is an essential human right, access to clean potable water is not only a basic need for human health it is also the right of the people of Costa Rica as defined by its constitution. As more wealthy foreigners and large-scale housing developments come on line, Costa Rica must begin to create infrastructure that manages this access in a sustainable and controlled manner.

Costa Rica has already seen what uncontrolled development can do for the local population. In the Nothern Pacific Province of Guanacaste, many communities’ access to water is only possible for a few hours of the day whereas five years ago they had running water 24 hours a day. Quality of life for the average Costa Rican has not improved in this region and National Parks there are suffering contamination from hotels and resorts, which lack access to water treatment plants. They are left few options but to dump sewage in tourism zones and otherwise healthly watersheds.

Osa Conservation Area in the Southern Pacific has 17 protected areas, including 4 National Parks. This region is vital to the contribution of Costa Rica’s biodiversity, which is estimated to house 5% of Global biodiversity. The area is estimated to have 375 species of birds, 3,100 types of trees and plants and thousands of insects. The Osa is also home to mega fauna such as the Baird’s Tapir and the elusive Jaguar. Offshore is Latin America’s first Marine Park, Parque Nacional Marino Ballena. These factors make this region of Costa Rica critical to the future of the country’s EcoTourism. However, the region is also one of the poorest in Costa Rica. Therefore, conscious and wise development is critical to the social, ecological and economic health of the Osa Conservation Area. Large-scale developments are now arriving everyday, which makes the implementation of planning and development laws vitally important.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been working to help communities develop plans to regulate and control development. These plans are now on the cusp of implementation. Therefore, it is critical to communicate them locally in order to ensure their success and the community’s understanding of and commitment to them. This project is a pilot to help the Conservancy educate and involve the communities in the northern area of the Fila Costena. The project’s focus will be on water as a significant measurement of human and ecological health as well as its role in the continued economic viability of the region. The project will also communicate the role that community members and watershed stakeholders can play in preserving and improving access to potable water and clean rivers and by extension the biodiversity of the Osa Conservation Area.

Project Outline

The project will create an outreach campaign in Uvita, Osa targeting stakeholders and users of the Cuenca Uvita through CAVU’s participatory cinema technique. There will be three phases.

The first phase is to develop and craft a complete project strategy by evaluating the level of current participation in the ASADA as well as local knowledge of watershed management in the area. This phase should be down within 2-3 full days of surveying and questioning a sample of the local population.

Phase two will be the construction of a film, which will employ local voices, comments, wildlife and organizations as they relate to the watershed. Collectively the partners will create a message that will fill the education gap and motivate more stakeholders to become involved in the sustainable development of the community vis-a-vis watershed management. This phase will last approximately 8 days.

The final phase of the project will be the projection and evaluation phase, in which CAVU will project the media in 3-4 locations defined by TNC and the ASADA. After the media is projected there will be discussions to follow as well as implementation strategies created. In the phase CAVU will attempt to quantify the result of the campaign within 3-4 weeks of the projection and provide comments and evaluation to TNC. Furthermore, fifty copies of the film will be provided to TNC and the ASADA for continued use in workshops throughout the Osa Conservation Area.


  • Involve a wide range of local stakeholders in the management of the watershed of Uvita.
  • Conduct and survey the general awareness of watershed management among local and foreigners living and working in the community
  • Create a cinema campaign, which uses local voices mixed with scientific, health and economic rationale for proper and local management of this scarce and threatened natural resource.
  • Generate the idea that Local Action Matters and individual as well as group action can make a long-term difference in access and conservation of clean rivers and potable water
  • Provide an educational tool to be used locally by organizations to motivate more people to become actively involved in their ASADAs.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign to determine future projects as well as to understand the lessons learned.
  • Produce a podcast that reaches a larger audience

What We Have Done

One thousand copies of the DVD have been printed. CAVU and TNC are rolling this film out community by community in the Osa. The program encompasses high schools, local events and community workshops. Additionally, a national event is scheduled for August 13th at the Magaly Theatre which will target government officials, media and the general public. If you wish to attend the event please send e-mail to Following the program, the entire film will be made public via our website.

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