Showing course contents for the educational year 2022 - 2023 .
Course responsible: John Andrew Mcneish
ECTS credits: 10
Faculty: Faculty of Landscape and Society
Teaching language: EN
Limits of class size:
A maximum of 10 NMBU students
Teaching exam periods:
The course is run in the June block. The second half of the course is in Costa Rica. There will be some (mandatory) preparatory classes at NMBU in May.
Course frequency: Annual
First time: Study year 2018-2019
Masters students of International Environmental Studies. Students from the Masters in International Development Studies and the Masters in International Relations are also encouraged to apply.
A practicum course is 10 credit, practice based field course for NMBU Masters students. Professors oversee student teams that complete consulting-style projects for external client organizations. The client presents its terms of reference (TOR) and the student team works together to produce deliverables that meet the client's needs, with the professor/s acting as a coach and facilitator. The Practicum is a real world, team oriented alternative to the other field course run for Masters students by NMBU.
Each Practicum course will have its own unique subject matter and deliverables tailored to client needs, but there are a few cross-cutting learning objectives:
- Critical Thinking and Analysis: Researching and conceptualizing problems, defining the scope of a project and breaking it down into workable components.
- Teamwork: Working effectively as a team member by identifying key tasks, sharing responsibility for the project, and ensuring all deadlines are met.
- Client Relations: Establishing a positive working relationship with a client by understanding the client's needs and deadlines, leading productive meetings, following up with client requests, and managing expectations.
- Oral Presentation: Delivering an organized, articulate presentation to the client with effective remarks, digital media and graphical aids.
- Written Presentation: Preparing a professional, cleanly written document that identifies the client's problem and offers thoughtful analysis and recommendations.
This description is based on experience from 2019 and 2022. In this practicum, students will gain experience in the practical application of political ecology as a means to study and understand environmental conflicts in southwest Costa Rica. This year, the practicum will build on previous research and focus in particular on issues related to water. Water is one of the principal concerns in areas of pineapple cultivation in southwest Costa Rica. The pineapple industry has recently expanded to become Costa Rica's largest export crop. Current pineapple cultivation utilizes a great deal of water and an intense application of pesticides, which has impacts for both water access and water contamination. Pineapple cultivation has negative health impacts for workers and those who use drinking water around plantations. In addition to the pineapple industry, the region is known for its rivers and is the location of hydroelectric projects that threaten water flow and access. Accordingly, students will investigate water issues that revolve both around industrial agriculture and energy generation.
Water is also a significant focus of both conservation and energy politics in Costa Rica. Costa Rica was named the UN Champion of the Earth for its pioneering role in fighting climate change in 2019. Costa Rica is known as a country with a strong history of human rights and biodiversity conservation policies and practices (26% of their national area designated as protected areas for biodiversity conservation). Despite these social-ecological strengths, many people, cultures and use-groups including indigenous communities have not been adequately considered in Costa Rican land management. In its efforts to conserve areas of natural beauty and rich bio-diversity boundaries are created, and with it access to resources such as rivers and aquifers are restricted. This context has heightened tensions between indigenous and non-indigenous communities, states and private enterprises in both the eco-tourism and agri-industrial sectors.
The Costa Rican government recently attempted to encourage a shift to renewable energy production including the use of wind power and hydro-electric dams. This led to a competition to secure concessions over the river resources in the country by energy companies and agri-industrial companies keen to guarantee needed volumes of water. It also led to several campaigns by local communities to protest the damming and multiplying concessions over rivers essential for drinking water and small-scale agriculture. As a result of several successful legal actions projects such as the hydro-electric scheme planned for the San Rafael river in our study area have been halted. Despite some localized successes, the question of the use of rivers for energy production remains nonetheless a serious concern at the level of national politics in the country. Recognizing the stress that is being placed on the rivers in the country, UNESCO is currently underway with the establishment of a large-scale mapping exercise of key water basins on the country, including the Teraba river within our region of study. We hope to make some contribution to this effort.
Students will learn to apply a political ecology framework to better understand and address these different tensions. 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 we will be working collaboratively with water activists in the region. The course is designed to teach students to gather rich qualitative data and to guide students in the preparation of data that help to respond to the questions and concerns of the main and sub-clients below. In this practicum, students will apply participatory, critical, co-productive, indigenous methodological approaches to research and practice.
Our main client will be the United Nations University for Peace, Costa Rica (https://www.upeace.orghttps://www.upeace.org). The University for Peace (UPeace) is an academic institution whose mission is to contribute to peace-building, human rights protection and sustainable development. For the University for Peace to contribute to their mission, it is essential that they work with local institutions in Costa Rica to better understand the conflicts that arise from different land use regimes.
Our secondary clients will be the community council of Longo Mai. We aim for the research carried out under the practicum to be of direct benefit to the community. We aim in particular for the research to be of value in explaining the impacts of pineapple production, but also the complex economic and political dynamics surrounding the industry in Costa Rica.
Students will be provided teaching and supervision by teaching staff at NMBU, American University and the UN Peace University. The majority of supervision will be given in the last two weeks of the course. Teaching in practical methods will be carried out in both the classroom and the field whilst in Costa Rica. Depending on the aims of the practicum, students may also receive teaching and orientation on practical techniques and methods from external teachers and the client organizations.
Each practicum requires its own tailor made reading list. This reading list will provide students with both theoretical and practical information regarding the topic/s of the practicum. The reading list will be made available at the start of the course. Students will be expected to use the reading list as part of their preperation work for the practicum field study.
All Masters-level students at NMBU and AU with an interest and relevant skills in the field of environmental and social science studies are encouraged to apply to take part in the practicum.
Students with both theoretical and practical knowledge within the field of environmental and social science studies are welcome to apply to take part in the course
The course involves both classroom and field research-based learning. Students will take part in classroom learning in the two first weeks of the course, and the first three days of their visit to Costa Rica. Approximately ten days will be spent living and carrying out thematically focused field research in the community of Longo Mai. The final two weeks of the course will be dedicated to the completion of the research report. The report can be completed by students whilst staying in Costa Rica, or on returning home following the period of field stay in Longo Mai.
There is no final written exam for this course.
Students will be required to submit a research report based on their thematic research in Costa Rica. This is to be submitted on the last day of the course.
250 hours of formal study hours. Students will also be encouraged to participate in group work, discussions and field visits outside of these hours.
The course is principally oriented towards social and environmental sciences.
Type of course:
50 hours of classroom teaching.
Assessment of students presentations and deliverable will be conducted by an examination committee formed by the course responsible professors and the client organization.
Examination details: Assignment: Letter grades