Political Ecologies of Land Use Conflicts Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the world's leading exporters of pineapples.


In this practicum, we will examine the roots of land use conflict caused by the expansion of pineapple farming in Costa Rica. Students will gain experience in the practical application of political ecology as a means to study and understand these conflicts.

Political ecology is the intersection of political economy and the environment, and broadly focuses on how power intersects with the environment. While methods of political ecology are interdisciplinary, they have been heavily influenced by ethnography and anthropological approaches. As such, this practicum will focus largely on anthropological field methods and will also engage participatory, critical, and indigenous methodological approaches to research.

Pineapple has become Costa Rica's largest export agricultural crop in a short period of time. It uses high quantities of pesticides and research has illustrated the negative impacts on ground water and on biodiversity. The pineapple industry is the target of lawsuits because it is encroaching on wetlands and protected areas. Unfortunately, pineapple cultivation often negatively impacts the health and social conditions of workers, those living around the plantations, are negatively impacts access to food and water as pesticides are found in drinking water around plantations. Further, the impacts of pineapple cultivation may affect people of social groups in different ways

Students will learn to apply a political ecology framework to better understand and address these conflicts.

Program Dates

Course Dates
Mid-May-July 2019
Tentative On-Campus Meetings
Students will meet on-campus during the last two weeks of May.
Travel to Costa Rica
June 2-14, 2019

Program Fee

Students will be required to pay a program fee. The program fee covers in-country transportation, some meals, housing and excursions. 

All students are responsible for 3 credits AU tuition, international airfare, most meals, in-country transport outside of the program, visa fees and immunizations.


SIS students will work alongside students from SIS Partner School, the Norweigan University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and students from Costa Rican institutions. UN University for Peace (UPEACE) will be a partner institution for this research.

The client for this practicum is UPEACE. Through ongoing collaborations facilitated by UPEACE faculty, students will be working for a community association located adjacent to areas of pineapple cultivation, and will apply methods of political ecology and produce deliverables that will address the association's current concerns.

Faculty Director

Suggested Program Match

This practicum is open to all SIS graduate students meeting the practicum requirements and may be of particular interest to students studying Global Environmental Policy, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, International Peace and Conflict Resolution, and International Development.

There are no specific course prerequisites, but an application’s competitiveness will be enhanced by showing experience with or capacity for any of the following: relevant language skills; prior experience or field work in the region; coursework on or experience with conservation; prior work on food and agriculture projects; and coursework, experience or skills with indigenous rights. The practicum's purpose is to gain an applied understanding of the political ecology approach, and to gain experience in applied field research. The course’s central objective is to prepare students to competently use a variety of field research methods in investigating environmental issues.