The dynamic use of biodiversity richness in the Bribri Indigenous Territory

Thumbnail Image
Rodriguez Valencia, Mariana
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This research took place in two Bribri indigenous communities situated on the border between Costa Rica and Panama. Indigenous Peoples, including Bribri people, are often portrayed as holders of a body of traditional knowledge, the loss of which is measured by their declining use of biodiversity. As much has been written on this, in this thesis, I chose to use a strength-based framing and focus on the Bribri as skillful and creative agents. I investigated how Bribri people use the biodiversity richness of their territory to adapt to a changing environment. This is not to deny the outside impacts produced by globalized change, but to reveal the strategies used by Bribri people for responding to a dynamic environment and being resilient instead of being the passive subjects of shocks and disruptors. I did this through the following research questions: 1) Is the narrative of decline and loss in biodiversity richness, measured against what was used in at some point in the past the only way to think about the relationship between Bribri People and the biodiversity of their territory? 2) How have Bribri people drawn upon their social ecological memory to respond to the invasion of fungal pathogens in their commercial lands? 3) How can stakeholders and researchers co-produce livelihood opportunities by drawing upon the capabilities of Bribri cacao agroforestry systems? To answer these questions, I used three areas of literature: ethnobiology, resilience, and co-production of knowledge. The qualitative approach I used for data collection consisted of conducting participant observation, life history interviews, semi-structured interviews, and transect walks. My results suggest that Bribri actively express their agency in responding to a dynamic environment by; 1) reconfiguring their use of biodiversity to meet livelihood needs, 2) negotiating causes of environmental change, 3) accessing biological materials and social memory to reorganize following a disturbance, 4) drawing upon the capabilities of their biocultural heritage to meet contemporary livelihoods and lay the foundation for meaningful futures. Thesis findings have relevance for the Bribri people as their strengths, agency, and creativity are highlighted as they produce knowledge through their responses to a dynamic environment.
Resilience thinking, Biocultural design, Social-ecological memory, Biodiversity use, Bribri Indigenous People