Watershared Agreements: A Contestation, Hybridization or Transformation of Payments for Ecosystem Services?

Authors: Nigel Asquith, FundaciĆ³n Natura Bolivia, Zhao Ma*, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Land Use, Latin America
Keywords: Payments for Ecosystem Services, PES, market-based conservation, institution, Payments of Environmental Services, watershed governance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galerie 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the first formal PES definition in 2005, PES studies have mostly focused on conceptualizing PES or empirically examining a limited number of actual programs. This literature has largely failed to keep up with new initiatives taking place in the field, where over 270,000 hectares of forests in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, for instance, have been conserved under Watershared agreements, an innovative adaptation of PES. Watershared agreements are locally designed, funded and implemented; focus on local priorities negotiated among local actors; and combine individually-based economic incentives and an institutional approach to promote conservation. Unlike PES, Watershared agreements do not rely on opportunity cost as the determinant of compensation. Rather, they reinforce pro-conservation norms by providing a token of appreciation and publicly recognizing individuals who contribute to conservation. Using an Institutional Analysis and Development Framework, this paper analyzes Watershared programs from across the Andean region to illustrate how design principles of robust common pool resource institutions have been consciously or subconsciously operationalized and incorporated by Watershared programs as an adaptation to previously theorized PES. Specifically, this paper discusses the structure of incentives facing natural resource managers in the Global South, the complexity of their interacting livelihood and conservation decision making processes, and the potential adverse consequences of introducing exogenous incentives in local contexts. Our results demonstrate the potential of and need for adapting PES to incorporate the attributes and dynamics of particular social-ecological systems in order to support effective local institutions that support ecosystem service provisioning while minimizing adverse effects.

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