Ngöbe Project

Native communities account for 2.4% of Costa Rica’s total population. In terms of social, economic, and political integration, they have been among the most neglected communities in the country. Their remote territories, far from cities and urban centers, hinders their access to education and the marketplace, making it harder for them to find a way of living.


Thanks to the alliance between OMINA, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the local brand AUTOCTONO, Costa Rican designer Alvaro Núñez was able to work with the Ngöbe community inhabiting the Puntarenas province, in order to document their unique, ancient techniques and strengthen their entrepreneurial skills.

The Ngöbe are an native community located in the Southeast of Costa Rica and scattered among five different territories. In spite of fast globalization, the Ngöbe are one of only a few native communities in the country that have managed to keep their traditions. Their mother tongue, Ngöbe; their intricate dresses; their dances; and their beliefs are some of the practices they still honor.

On May 2018, designer Alvaro Núñez conducted workshops with the five Ngöbe communities in the area, training and teaching four artisans per community. The workshops focused on marketing, production and customer service, and they were intended to raise awareness among the native artisans about the value proposition behind each piece they make.


Nuñez also surveyed the Ngöbe communities in order to document their artisanship, focusing on techniques, materials, and quality —something that had never been done before. Thanks to this effort, the communities’ craft is now documented, allowing for different organizations to work in accordance with the Ngöbe’s skill set.


This report of skills and techniques is available for anyone interested in contacting and working with the different Ngöbe communities.

You can request the report here.

“Working with the Ngöbe meant a re-encounter with our Latin American roots and, at the same time, a reality check that exposed the inequality issues that our native brothers and sisters experience.” Alvaro Núñez, AUTOCTONO