Between 2000 and 2009, Sulawesi lost 15.58% of its forest cover. Major causes included development activities, such as mining and agricultural intensification. To support efforts to maintain important ecosystems while simultaneously improving the livelihoods of the local people, the Forestry and Agroforestry in Sulawesi: Linking Knowledge and Action (AgFor) project aims to facilitate government and outside agency support for local communities which provide ecosystem services through payments/rewards for ecosystem services’ schemes (P/RES). In order to learn from previous projects and others’ experiences, avoid similar mistakes and critically assess what mechanisms would be applicable at AgFor sites, research was conducted through two parallel studies: 1) review of factors contributing to the success and failure of PES and RES in other programs; and 2) qualitative identification of the actual meaning and values of forest ecosystem services for local communities, and motives and practices to (or not to) preserve the forest. The results of both studies feed into collaborative planning of natural resources and ecosystem services management and formulation of types of support. This paper summarizes the key findings and results of these two studies.