Making Nature Count: enhancing payments for environmental
service initiatives in Ecuador and Colombia
This project, scheduled to run from January 2007 to December 2008, is being
funded by the
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is a joint
initiative between CIFOR (PI Dr Sven Wunder) and Ohio State University’s Faculty
of Latin American Studies (Co-PI
Dr Douglas Southgate) and focuses on emerging
payments-for-environmental-services (PES) schemes in Ecuador and Columbia. This
region has remarkably high biodiversity by global standards, but much of it is
threatened by habitat loss and degradation through logging, transformation to
pasture, and expanding small-scale agriculture. Various approaches are being
tried to reverse this, including recently different forms of PES and other
economic incentives and innovative conservation financing mechanisms. Many of
the initiatives are emerging in isolation, with little opportunity for those
involved – buyers, sellers and intermediaries – to share experiences and build a
broader body of knowledge and understanding.
The overall goal of the project is to build national capacity in Ecuador and
Colombia on how best to implement payments for environmental services (PES).
This will be done by distilling and disseminating information on best practices
in PES in support of planned, nascent and ongoing PES initiatives. In gathering,
analysing, exchanging and circulating knowledge about PES among conservation
practitioners, researchers and decision makers, the project will also enhance
capacity among conservation stakeholders and make them better informed about PES
implementation. This should help to make PES a more effective tool for
biodiversity conservation and a source of benefit to local people.
The specific objectives are:
To analyze four to five existing PES schemes in depth in the field to
extract key lessons about the factors influencing success or failure in
different circumstances, so as to be able to offer hands-on advice and
suggestions on strategic choices in the design and adaptation of PES.
To assist in starting-up one or two new PES initiatives by assessing
the feasibility of these initiatives, making specific suggestions for PES
design through field support and mentoring, and possibly supplying or
helping to secure strategic financial resources for pilot payments.
To establish a forum for information exchange and capacity building
through holding two workshops (one in each country) and strengthening and
extending an existing PES e-listserve (RISAS), to disseminate results, as
well as through encouraging the use of pre-tested frameworks for coherent
One aim of the proposed comparative work is to clarify under what conditions
different approaches to paying for environmental services work best for
biodiversity conservation. There are two broad approaches. First, one can target
the conservation of biodiversity directly by paying landowners to preserve
wildlife habitat, or to restore degraded habitat, thereby creating more habitat.
This generally requires ongoing payments over the long-term. Second, the
payments could target the provision of other environmental services that are
also compatible with protecting biodiversity.
For example, this indirect
approach is being tried where landowners are being paid to protect cloud forest
and páramo (high-altitude alpine grassland) to secure their functioning in
producing plentiful amounts of good quality water for users downstream. In some
cases, the landowners are paid directly and regularly for their services. In
others, the money collected from users is aggregated into an investment fund,
income from which can be used to finance traditional upper watershed management
projects, improved protected area management, and integrated conservation and
So the research is designed to address the following
Under what conditions do direct payments or,
alternatively, investments in indirect synergies, work best for biodiversity
Are continuous payments preferable to short-term
incentives designed to encourage a transformation in production activities?
Is compensating the landowners’ recurrent opportunity
costs more promising than trust funds to finance punctual project
When is there a case for self-organized, local-scale
payments, and when should the public sector be involved?
When can different services be sold “bundled”, instead of
concentrating only on the single most important?
Answers to these questions will help to guide future conservation investments
inside the two countries, and beyond.
Seven potential study sites have been identified in conjunction with CIFOR’s
partners in Colombia and Ecuador. However, at this stage no final site selection
has yet been made. Five of the candidate sites fall within one or other of the
four MacArthur Foundation’s priority landscapes in the region.
Cordillera del Cóndor (Morona-Santiago Province, S
Ecuador). This is a remote, highly biodiverse and forest-rich area, with
current threats from mining, small-scale logging and gradual agricultural
expansion by Shuar and Ashuar indigenous groups. In conjunction with
Conservation International (CI), CIFOR will assist by doing a
pre-feasibility study of the viability of different pro-conservation
Chachis (Esmeraldas Province, W Ecuador): This
community conservation incentive agreement, negotiated with CI and GTZ,
involves using money from private biodiversity investors to set up a trust
fund that will provide yearly returns. These will be used in turn to pay
indigenous communities to prevent logging of their pristine forests. CIFOR
will help with socioeconomic assessments and in setting up baselines to
evaluate the efficiency of the conservation effort.
Pimampiro (Imbabura, N Ecuador): This 6-year old PES
scheme is one of the oldest in the region. It involves municipal water users
paying farmers in Nueva América in the upper watershed to conserve the
catchment, something that also generates clear biodiversity benefits.
Working with a local NGO, EcoCiencia, CIFOR is undertaking a hydrological
study and analysing the changes in the service provider’s conservation
Cuenca – Cajas NP (Azuay Province, S Ecuador): 3% of
the fees paid by water users in Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city, are
earmarked for watershed management, part of which is allocated to improving
the management of Cajas National Park in the upper watershed. CIFOR will
work with ETAPA (Empresa Publica Municipal de Telecomunicaciones, Agua
Potable y Alcantarillado) in Cuenca to investigate if this is an efficient
mechanism for both watershed protection and biodiversity conservation.
Chaina (near Villa de Leyva): Under this
payments-for-watershed-protection-services scheme, prepared by
Humboldt acting as a PES intermediary, municipal water beneficiaries will pay
upland farmers to change land-use practices. The scheme is ready to be
implemented. CIFOR will assist the Institute during implementation to test and
adapt different types of incentives.
Chingaza (E of Bogotá): This is a watershed PES under development, to be
implemented in 2007. A local NGO, Ecoversa, working with the Corporación
Autónoma Regional del Guavio (Corpoguavio), a regional public-sector
environmental entity, together plan to use hydroelectrical payments and Bogotá
drinking water benefits to raise funds to pay potato producers in the Guasca
region to conserve páramo grasslands.
La Vieja (Quindío):
Fundación CIPAV, a Cali-based NGO, is running a PES
scheme in which temporary payments (2-4 years) from the GEF (Global
Environmental Facility) are being used to pay for planting agroforestry trees on
tree-less pastures, a move that should also help restore biodiversity in these
areas. CIFOR will help incorporate a watershed-protection perspective into this
initiative, to make this a case of “bundled” PES that might allow payments to be
extended beyond the initial 2-4 years.
Collaborating partners in this project
Both CIFOR and OSU have a strong network of committed partners in the two
countries. These include
Conservation International (Andes Region), GTZ-Ecuador,
the Ecuadorian PES network RISAS (Red de Información sobre Pagos por Servicios
Ambientales, the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute
in Bogotá (Colombia), the
Faculty of Economics of the University Los Andes in
Bogotá (Colombia), and the NGOs Fundación CIPAV in Cali (Colombia),
Ecuatoriana de Estudios Ecológicos (EcoCiencia) and
Fundación Antisana (both in