Last updated August 2011
PES Projects
Scaling up payments for watershed services: Designing regional compensation systems to safeguard water supplies for downstream agriculture
Uncovering the scope for environmental service payments in the conservation of the North Andean Corridor
Making Nature count: enhancing payments for environmental service initiatives in Ecuador and Colombia
Stakeholders and biodiversity at the local level: building on opportunities
Carbon sequestration and sustainable livelihoods
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Uncovering the Scope for Environmental Service Payments in the Conservation of the North Andean Corridor

This is a 1-year project, was funded by Conservation International, to identify potential sites in the Northern Andes for implementing payments for environmental services primarily for watershed protection, but with biodiversity conservation as an additional benefit. The project is also contributing to the development of CI’s global PES Research Plan by promoting a more informed use of PES as a conservation tool in a range of pilot schemes.

The North Andean Corridor is a 13 million hectare conservation area that extends from the Sumapaz depression in Northern Colombia to the Portuguesa Cordillera in Venezuela. It is one of the most fragmented forest corridors in the Andes, especially on the Colombian side, due to a long history of dense settlements and development for agriculture, mining, and other industries. Remnant forests are under intense pressure as the agricultural frontier keeps expanding. The pressures are less intense on the Venezuelan side and there are still significant opportunities to work with national and local authorities and communities to extend the area under conservation management. The levels of fragmentation, species richness and endemism call for the development of a different strategy from that used elsewhere, one that is focused on restoring and connecting key patches of forest, engaging effectively with local communities and authorities, and expanding already established conservation schemes to ensure the long-term sustainability of the corridor.

The corridor includes key wetlands and páramos that are the main sources of water for important urban populations, such as in Bogotá (Colombia) and in Mérida (Venezuela). Building on some established PES experiences in Colombia and assessing its effectiveness in conserving biodiversity will allow CI and its partners to promote a PES strategy for the Corridor particularly on the Venezuelan side. To ensure the financial sustainability of the corridor, it is important to take advantage of schemes such as payments for ecosystem services, especially those concerned with water production and watershed protection, given that water is frequently a scarce factor, and water-resource management is a key environmental service element of the corridor. The study involves learning from PES experience in Colombia and how best to link it to biodiversity conservation. CIFOR and CI are working to identify other sites with the potential to sustain a PES scheme, particularly on the Venezuelan side.

The goal of the project is for significant use of direct payments for environmental services as a conservation tool in the North-Andean Corridor and beyond, in contexts where this can contribute in a realistic and cost-effective way to successful conservation of biodiversity.

The specific objectives are:

1) To define the spatial and context-specific scope for using payments for environmental services (PES), particularly related to watershed protection, as an effective biodiversity conservation tool in the North-Andean Corridor.

2) Through applied analysis, to generate inputs to CI’s global PES Research Plan, and promote the informed use of diverse PES pilot schemes as conservation tools.

The work in Colombia mainly involves analyzing the environmental-service, biodiversity conservation and livelihoods outcomes of existing PES or PES-like schemes. In Venezuela, the feasibility of setting up additional PES schemes at one or two sites is being explored, the main criteria being the willingness of stakeholders to become involved, and the financial and legal viability of the initiative. There is also reciprocal exchange of lessons learnt from PES in the North-Andean Corridor with those from PES elsewhere, regionally and globally.

A series of outputs have so far been produced by the project, together with our partners Ecoversa in Colombia and CIDIAT in Venezuela. In Colombia, a national assessment report (in Spanish) called “The Colombian experience with payments for environmental services“ reviews the state of the art of PES and PES-like schemes in the country. The underlying work included field visits to PES type experiences in Río La Vieja, Valle del Cauca and Manizales, and desk studies of field projects such as San Nicolás, Amoyá, Fúquene, Salvajina, and others (see Colombia map), as well as analyses of national environmental incentive schemes such as the CIF for reforestation and conservation (“Plan Verde”) and the “Familia Guardabosque” programme. The report concludes that Colombia is one of the most advanced countries in Latin America with respect to the development of environmental financing mechanisms. On the other hand, on the spending side there are very few true PES experiences in the sense of actually providing direct contingent compensations to landholders for the provision of environmental services.

In Venezuela, joint field work with CIDIAT and Ecoversa was carried out principally in the Cordillera de Mérida, sites including Río Pereño/ La Jabonosa, La Miel, Tocuyo, Yacambú, and Calderas (see Venezuela map). Desk assessments of the other sites (Neverí, Lara & Falcón states) and of existing national PES-like mechanisms were added. The results have been summarised in different documents. The most extensive report (in Spanish) is called “The Venezuelan experience with payments for environmental services”, authored by CIDIAT. Greater detail about the biophysical nature of the specific environmental services provided is described in a supplement report. A Masters thesis in Environmental Economics at the Los Andes University of Bogotá, authored by Gustavo Ramírez and co-sponsored by the project, explores the economic viability of a PES scheme in the most advanced potential site, Río Pereño/ La Jabonosa. A short CIFOR trip report conveys in a synthetic manner some main observations about Venezuela’s PES potentials. Finally, a conclusion and recommendations report, jointly elaborated by CIFOR and Ecoversa, round off the Venezuela activities of the project.

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