Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

UNOVIDA (Unión Norte por la Vida meaning the Northern Union for Life)

Hiedy Murrillo from UNOVIDA speaking at a protest in San Jose with protesters

UNOVIDA (Unión Norte por la Vida meaning the Northern Union for Life) has been working to defend the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment in Costa Rica for 15 years.  

At the local level, they coordinate activities with ASADAS (community associations who manage aqueducts that provide drinking water to communities), trade unions, peasant organizations and other environmental organizations such as the Environmental Association of San Juan and networks of rural women.  They link many of these organisations together at the national level through the Costa Rican Federation for Environmental Conservation (FECON).

They offer training and support around legal disputes so that people and communities can defend their environment. They are mainly focused on rural areas in the north of Costa Rica where their priority areas of activity are the promotion and strengthening of community water management; sustainable agricultural practices; opposition to the mining project in Crucita and alternative energy production.

They work closely with FANCA in promoting water as a human right.  At the 5th World Water Forum, one staff member, Heidy Murillo, gave a presentation in the FAN session explaining how communities have used the right to achieve significant successes in defending the “piñeras” (pineapple plantations).

Environmental impact of pineapple farming

The increase of pineapple plantations in the North, South and Caribbean region of Costa Rica has triggered a number of negative environmental impacts, such as excessive use of agrochemicals and groundwater pollution. Many communities have had to turn to tanker trucks for water provision. To defend their right to safe water, a network was created, the Front of Sectors Affected by Pineapple Expansion. They based their claim on the constitutional recognition of the right to a healthy environment and the Constitutional Tribunal resolution recognising access to water as a human right. As a result of this initiative, the National Chamber of Producers and Exporters of Pineapple publicly made a series of environmental commitments. Two local government authorities went further by declaring a moratorium on the expansion of pineapple plantations in their territories, a decision to promote the same course of action in other municipalities and a resolution to enact specific legal regulations in the area of water rights in conflict with agricultural expansion.

"Being a member of FANCA has been invaluable to the success of our work" says Heidy Murillo. 

We have made good use of their training programme, which offers valuable tips and tools to help us to improve our ability to make a real impact and transform protest into solutions. FANCA provides the space for local actors and social organisations to meet and create consensus with other sectors, from local to regional and national levels, in the formulation of water policies. Through FAN International, we can share our successful experiences and reach decision-makers at national, regional and global levels”.


Photo 1:

Heidy Murillo from UNOVIDA, at a protest in front of the Ministry of the Environment in San Jose, on the international day of the environment

Photo 2: A group of voluntary members of UNOVIDA


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