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Decentralized payments for environmental services: the cases of Pimampiro and PROFAFOR in Ecuador

Wunder, S. & Albán, M. 2008.
Ecological Economics 65(4): 685-698.


Few payment for environmental services (PES) schemes in developing countries operate outside of the central state’s umbrella, and are the same time old enough to allow for a meaningful evaluation. Ecuador has two such decentralised, consolidated experiences: the five-year old Pimampiro municipal watershed-protection scheme and the twelve-year old PROFAFOR carbon-sequestration programme. We describe and compare the two cases, using a common PES definition and methodology, drawing on both primary interview-based information and secondary data. We find that both schemes have been relatively effective in reaching their environmental objectives, in terms of having probably high additionality levels and low leakage effects. A strong focus on the targeted environmental service and a strong degree of conditionality seem to be two key factors explaining these achievements. Although neither scheme has targeted poverty alleviation or other side objectives, both are likely to have improved PES recipients’ welfare, mostly through higher incomes. We highlight several observations with more generalised relevance and lessons for the design of PES schemes.

Keywords: watershed protection, carbon sequestration, forestry, Ecuador

Note: For further information about this publications, please contact the corresponding author, Dr. Sven Wunder (