Integration of Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Measures in the Management of Natural Resources in Four Priority Watersheds

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The overall aim of the UN Joint Programme was to increase the capacity for adaptation and mitigation to climate change and to contribute to environmental sustainability and poverty reduction in two priority watersheds in Panama.

The Joint Programme focused on areas with high levels of land degradation, pressure on land and water resources, vulnerability to climate change and poverty. The Programme promoted the implementation of sustainable land management and optimal water usage, particularly in agricultural and forestry sectors, the development of a Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategy, Climate Monitoring System, Early Warning System, climate change awareness campaigns, and increasing the sources of funding.


Tools were developed to guide and facilitate adaptation and mitigation actions at policy level. Climate change issues were also mainstreamed into relevant policies and in the design of a Monitoring Climate System, Early Warning System, and Geo-referenced Information System to monitor soil, water and health indicators.

In addition, steps were taken to increase the levels of local participation and build awareness in the highland Communities. Steps were also taken to increase the capacity of the population and local authorities to practice integrated management of resources, such as mitigation and adaptation processes.

There was an identification of alternative funding sources to support action in the management of natural resources and there was promotion, coordination and agreement by the Joint Programme to strengthen the national and local capacities.


There were three major outcomes:

  1. An Integrated Adaptation and Mitigation Management Strategy and a Pilot Climate Monitoring System were developed to ensure that adaptation and mitigation issues are taken into account when making development decisions nationwide.
  2. The improved local management of natural resources (water and soil) helped to increase the ability to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects.
  3. Access to increased levels of funding to support activities for sustainable management of natural resources leading r􏰀 to the adaptation and mitigation of climate change


  • There was a short time frame to develop a complex programme in two different basins, with many stakeholders involved.
  • An administrative platform with approved administrative procedures for all United Nations agencies to streamline the implementation process and reduce transaction costs was missing.
  • To consolidate discussions about sectoral planning between Government institutions and traditional authorities was a challenge.
  • There was a lack of indicators and baseline data for monitoring progress.
  • Managers and national directors shifted, affecting the decision making process at the institutional level.
  • During the formulation of the proposal, the indigenous communities from the intervention areas, and the institutional representatives of the basins were not properly involved due to time constraints to present a proposal to the donor. The latter caused the slow and difficult start of the Programme.
  • There was insufficient information about the realities of the territories where the Programme was to be implemented and a lack of mapping and analysis about the stakeholders involved.
  • Changes in the Government and the senior officials in national institutions as well as governance problems in the Tabasará river basin and the lack of a monitoring and evaluation protocol all impacted the implementation of the Joint Programme.
  • Until 2011, conflict between traditional authorities of Ngäbe Bugle and the national Government resulted in non-recognition by authorities of the Region which in turn hampered coordination of activities and caused important delays in implementation, requiring extensive efforts to overcome these issues from the technical team and management of the Programme.

During 2011 and 2012, political conflicts between Ngäbe Bugle and the national Government, due to hydroelectric and mining concessions, caused tension and social protests, including the closing of major roads that delayed development of some Programme activities.

  • There was also lack of communication infrastructure and access to several areas of the basins.

Way Forward

For any future project in the area, or to strengthen current activities, the following is recommended:

  • Continue to develop financial tools to achieve sustainability of actions at a local level;
  • Establish dialogue and participation with the local authorities and sign an agreement with the Indigenous General Congress for the coordination and implementation of the activities;
  • Activities should be multi-disciplinary, inter-sectoral and participative;
  • Establish synergies and collaboration in projects with organizations participating in the Joint Programme;
  • Find the support of local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) for the implementation of the Programme;
  • Develop productive models with climate change adaptations techniques that include participative and demonstrative projects;
  • Support the capacity building of the local communities; r􏰀 Use cultural practices for sensitization and knowledge sharing;
  • Rescue traditional knowledge for adaptation to climate variability;
  • Develop comprehensive action at the community level to reduce vulnerability to climate change;
  • Coordinate actions at the local level to improve management and increase local empowerment;
  • Support national institutions work in the field to improve their performance and local presence.

Read more about this JP on the MDG-F website.

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