Project Factsheet
Tools for » Integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in the management of natural resources in two priority watersheds of Panama
Project ID:00067170Description:MDGF-1747-E-PAN Env Climate
MDG Achievement Fund
Start Date *: 2 Oct 2007
MDGF Environ Climate Chg
End Date*: 31 Mar 2012
Country: Panama Project Status: Financially Closed
  Participating Organization:   Multiple


In Panama, the concentration of vulnerable and poor populations mainly resides in rural areas where 50.7% are poor people with 96% found in indigenous areas. The challenge for public policies is to breach the enormous historical inequalities gap that exists in the country. A thorough evaluation by the WHO on the effects of climate change on health was undertaken from 1970 to 2000, showing that some 160,000 deaths and 5.5 million of disability-adjusted life years were attributable to malaria, malnutrition, heat waves and floods, and dysentery. Panama is affected by the Niño-Niña natural phenomenon with severe drought and intense floods that affect the environment and human adaptation mechanisms. This directly translated into lower health status among the affected population. The Joint Programme targeted an estimated 150,364 resident population, of which 73,564 women were to increase capacity for adaptation and mitigation of climate change and to ensure the development and welfare of the population through three outcomes. This was done through improved local management of soil and water resources and enabling alternatives to access funding to support sustainable management of soil and water resources activities.

Adaptation mechanisms and mitigation looked at reducing soil erosion and promoting better use of water resources. The two target intervention zones count with some of the most vulnerable population in the country in these watershed areas. Climate change effects are directly felt as in December 2010 when severe flooding in the Chucunaque watershed affected more than 8,000 mostly indigenous people. The programme was based on three outcomes articulated around nine components with the overall objective to increase the capacity for climate change adaptation and mitigation in order to reduce poverty and increase socio-environmental sustainability in the two priority watersheds.. The JP proved instrumental in removing barriers, both regarding language and cultural, as well as technical and sectoral barriers – though signing agreements between NGOs, Universities and organized community groups. The JP also contributed to reinforcing the level of inter-institutional coordination. Through the establishment of Local Coordination Committees for the programme, greater synergies were achieved – such as the implementation of demonstrative initiatives on climate change with support from grass-roots organizations to implement the initiatives.


Outcome 1:

Integrated management strategy for adaptation and mitigation and pilot climate monitoring system developed to integrate adaptation and mitigation issues to nationwide decisions on development.

Outcome achievements:

  • The outcome had three components for formulation of an integrated management of CCA in the two target watersheds, monitoring systems for CC established in watershed areas, and CC integrated into national and local policies. Based on the national policy for climate change adaptation, an integrated strategy for climate change adaptation (CCA) and mitigation was developed for implementation in two watersheds under the first component. The six axes of the strategy are: 1) interinstitutional coordination and participation of communities and key government sectors; 2) knowledge management to adapt and mitigate climate change; 3) Awareness raising and education of actors through communication; 4) community based risk management; 5) good practice models of CCA; 6) financial alternatives for the sustainability of the Integrated Management Strategy.
  • The strategy was rolled out through community promoters and radio communications means. This created spaces for dialogue with local actors in both watersheds. The strategy goes beyond the mere technical level and it led to the development of a guide to reduce vulnerability to climate change through ownership of the affected population. Baseline studies were conducted in 14 communities on health and environment among a total of almost 7,000 inhabitants of both watersheds, with a focus on four aspects: 1) health effects of climate change, 2) Social factors affecting health, 3) primary health care and 4) objectives of the MDG.
  • Under the second component a pilot monitoring system in both watersheds was developed, that included early warning systems. The pilot covered various aspects all of which were connected with the relevant national level institutions (for example the EWS is coordinated with the Emergency Operations Center SINAPROC). GIS information was also used in the establishment of the pilot monitoring system for climate change, and specific indicators across various sectors were identified (environment, health, agriculture, risk management). A main achievement here was the effective collaboration and complementarity between the national institutions and agencies of the JP to establish the monitoring system, particularly as regards to the EWS and GIS.
  • Under the third component, the capacity development of national counterpart, but with a specific focus on the local level, was undertaken by the provision of specific equipment (SMCC, SAT and SIG), by provision of training on specific tools. Strengthened by the JP, the SINAPROC agreed to extend its coverage to respond to the needs of communities where they were previously beyond their reach.


Outcome 2:

Local management of soil and water resources improved to increase capacity for adaptation and mitigation of climate change to ensure the development and welfare of the population.

Outcome achievements:

  • The second outcome had four different components. In order to improve local capacity to manage CCA, two integrated plans containing demonstrative projects on CCA led this process. While the JP did not foresee it, a communication strategy was developed and allowed the participation of traditional authorities in indigenous communities. The capacity development was done through training by 99 community promoters and 32 community radio communication agents of the two watersheds, with a potential target of 150,364 local population.
  • Training at national level on the national legal environmental framework that specifically recognized and incorporated the role of indigenous traditional authorities led to the protection of Indigenous populations rights. It also increased indigenous populations’ knowledge of their rights and obligations in management of natural resources. Legislative environmental manuals were translated into three local languages and distributed with a video support.
  • The capacity development of national counterparts, with special emphasis at the local level, was undertaken in three manners: 1) Material support to improve capacities (such as the monitoring system, EWS, GIS); 2) training on the management tools (Monitoring system), 3) Accessing new areas of interventions. SINAPROC has agreed to include the two watershed communities in its area of coverage, thanks to the JP.
  • Another achievement was the development of the local population capacity to apply CCA techniques to agricultural production and enhance income and improve food security. A series of activities were undertaken best illustrated through the setting up of a farm model in the Tabasará watershed that included all CCA techniques and was used as a demonstration on how to improve production and family income while addressing climate change, a model that is being seen and replicated in neighboring communities and is being mentioned as a model in the local educational system.


Outcome 3:

Alternatives evaluated to access funding to support sustainable management of soil and water resources activities.

Outcome achievements:

  • The third outcome was revised and changed at the end of 2009 and as requested by the ANAM (Environmental National Authority) given the lack of an enabling legal framework to undertake compensation payment for environmental activities.  As an alternative, a study on accessing financial mechanisms through carbon rights and a financial and economic analysis of the forest plantations in Panama was conducted. Specific alliances with other projects such as UN-REDD were established to continue this line of intervention.


Best practices:

  • The EWS of the JP monitoring system was integrated by SINAPROC in the National Plan for Disasters.
  • Panama technological University has committed itself to the establishment of a Training Center for GIS to enable national and local decision-making, something that will benefit the JP actors.
  • Dialogue and participation with local authorities, and Memorandum of Understanding signing with indigenous organizations for the coordination and implementation of activities.
  • Use local NGOs as basis for implementation.
  • Developing CCA productive models that include demonstrative and participatory projects is key to provide evidence of results.
  • It was useful to rely on cultural traditional practices to transfer knowledge and sensitize population.
  • Support to national institutions at the local level contributed to improve their presence locally and the coordination at the local level contributed to increased local ownership.


Lessons learned:

  • Other programmes learned to be more effective in management, participatory and administrative practices, converting Panama in a pioneer in the work on multi-culturalism and local participation. The lessons from this JP were therefore used by other joint programmes in the country and in the region.
  • The lack of a reference framework with common understanding on approaches to CCA limits the effectiveness of the JP. Gradual phases that include studies, socialization, and consultation with local stakeholders must be part of the intervention design. These projects should last at least five years to enable proper phasing.
  • Dialogue with indigenous authorities must be established from the design phase of the intervention, and the translation of all dissemination material into local languages must be ensured. Ground the communication approach to indigenous communities on their own communication tradition skills and tools, building on existing capacities.
  • Synergies with other agencies projects and those of the institutions contribute to improving public programmes and policies.
  • Training must have a practical element to show actual implementation of the concepts and demonstrate the effects in practice.


More details can be found in the final project report:

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