Alfonso Mata and Jaime Echeverría
The chorotega region in northwestern Costa Rica is one of the most important areas of this republic; it covers primarily the Tempisque River Basin (TRB), Nicoya Peninsula, and other nearby lands (see map 1.1). The country's only seasonal dry forest is located here. Enjoying a climate of contrasts, varied geological formations, very attractive natural scenic areas, and a rich cultural heritage, the Chorotega region is perhaps the second most important economic region in the country, after the Central Valley (Mata and Blanco 1994), where the capital city of San José is located. Politically, this area constitutes the province of Guanacaste, with approximately 275,000 inhabitants distributed in 11 counties and an average density of 26 inhabitants per square kilometer. In addition, three counties of Puntarenas Province occupy the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The TRB is made up of nine counties of Guanacaste Province. The approximate population in this area is 157,000, with an average density of 30.6 inhabitants per square kilometer. Of this population, 43 percent is located in urban centers (˜60 inhabitants per square kilometer), whereas 57 percent lives in rural areas and tends to move toward cities such as Liberia, Cañas, and Nicoya (see map 1.2).
There has been a slow migration of rural and urban residents toward other parts of the country, mainly owing to lack of employment and the mechanized monocultures that require less human labor. These activities involve seasonal crops (melons, sugarcane) and are primarily carried out by a large contingent of nonresident Nicaraguans. The tourism industry in this area is one of the most important of the country.
The entire region has been notably altered and transformed, undergoing substantial changes in land use and ownership, as well as in the quality and quantity of its natural resources. The impact is a cause of concern for the region's inhabitants, public institutions, and nongovernmental organizations, which are making efforts to prevent further damage and repair that which