Payment for Environmental Services (PES) - Center for International Forestry Research

PES Projects

CIFOR has conducted five major projects (past, ongoing, or incipient) with a focus on payments for environmental services:

Scaling up payments for watershed services: Designing regional compensation systems to safeguard water supplies for downstream agriculture

This two-year project, funded by the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) window of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural research (CGIAR), started in May 2008. Its primary objective is to assist the Departmental Government of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to develop a Department-wide environmental services compensation system under which areas such as the 780 000 hectares of the Rio Grande watershed will be managed for the environmental services they provide. The second and third objectives of the project are to document the lessons learned in the process, and to apply them in other contexts through a cross-site learning network, starting elsewhere in Bolivia, India, Ecuador, and South Africa. The project will build upon on-the-ground experiments in three continents and use a comparative analysis to generate knowledge and capacity building tools that can be shared globally, including trying to explain the different degrees of development of watershed payment schemes across the tropics. Adapting the approach from elsewhere in Bolivia and incorporating lessons learned from two other developing countries will help to put the lessons learnt in Santa Cruz into perspective. This will ensure that the international public goods produced are more adaptable, the recommendations are more robust, and that the potential replicability of the model is greater.

For more information, please contact Nigel Asquith (Fundación Natura Bolivia) ( or Sven Wunder (CIFOR):

Uncovering the scope for environmental service payments in the conservation of the North Andean Corridor

This one-year project was funded by Conservation International (CI) to advance the cause of conservation in the North Andean Conservation Corridor. It involved studying PES and PES-like initiatives in Colombia and Venezuela, coupling these with a knowledge of PES schemes elsewhere in Latin America and other areas of the tropics. Colombia is recognised as a leader in PES and conservation incentives. A principal objective of this project was to identify specific sites in Venezuela where a pilot PES scheme could successfully be implemented. The project also aimed to disseminate the main lessons from these initiatives to the broader regional and global conservation science communities and, specifically, to feed into the current global scoping exercise of PES being undertaken by CI. Lessons were designed for the Venezuelan side of the North-Andean Corridor, where biophysical context is similar to that in neighbouring Colombia, but where work on PES scheme was less advanced. Understanding the preconditions, obstacles and enabling actions needed to implement PES helped to provide a site-specific road map for pilot initiatives elsewhere. 

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Making Nature Count: enhancing payments for environmental service initiatives in Ecuador and Colombia

This project, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, started in 01-01-07. It aims to create a network of different local-level PES implementation schemes at various development stages. The project is distilling some key lessons on the factors influencing the success or failure of payments-for-environmental-services schemes under different conditions in Ecuador and Colombia. The two countries have some of the most biologically diverse terrestrial landscapes on Earth, but they are also among the most threatened from habitat degradation and loss. The project involves in-depth analysis and field surveys in 4-5 existing payments-for-environmental-services schemes. This information is being used in turn to initiate PES at 1-2 new sites, to make specific suggestions on the design of PES at these sites, provide field support and mentoring, and possibly supply strategic financial resources for pilot payments. The project is establishing a forum for the exchange of information on PES and for helping to build capacity to implement PES in the two countries.

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Stakeholders and biodiversity at the local level: building on opportunities

The overall aim of this project, concluded in 2005 and funded by the Swiss Development Corporation, was to strengthen local people’s capacity to plan and implement locally relevant and viable forest landscape management activities in a number of tropical countries. One of three project components involved assessing and evaluating viable opportunities for trading in environmental services, and communicating the results to key stakeholders. Fieldwork was carried out by CIFOR researchers and associates in Bolivia and Vietnam.

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Carbon sequestration and sustainable livelihoods

With support from the Canadian government through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), CIFOR facilitated a series of workshops and roundtable discussions in 2005 on issues related to growing trees to sequester carbon and its influence on people’s livelihoods. Interest in this topic arose out of the potential for such projects through the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. Properly designed, these projects could conserve and/or increase carbon stock and at the same time improve rural livelihoods. Among the topics discussed have been: what are the requirements of mandatory vs. voluntary carbon trading markets; what do project partners need to do to benefit from these; and what other ecosystem services (including water and biodiversity protection) could such initiatives provide in a bundled form, possibly being compensated for by interested stakeholders?

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In a separate but related project, Tropical Forests and Climate Change Adaptation (TROFCCA), CIFOR is exploring possible innovative mechanisms to finance adaptation to climate change including, perhaps, payment for environmental services.

See also Paying People to Protect their Forests and Paying Countries to Protect their Forests