Why are we using RES?

The shift toward payment or reward mechanisms is premised on the potential of market-based approaches to induce behavioural change among ecosystem stewards toward achieving the twin goals of poverty reduction and ecosystem conservation.

Experience from Latin America and Southeast Asia has shown that poor farmers living adjacent to forested ecosystems, if recognized and appropriately rewarded, are likely to adopt land uses that have positive effects on ecosystem services available to the larger society. Market-based approaches are widely viewed as having the potential to defray conservation costs, meet social objectives and match the demand of environmental services with the short-term demands of land users within pastoral and agricultural landscapes.

Old approaches to ecosystem health

Until recently, natural resources have been managed in three ways: regulation, governance and information. The regulatory approach was stressed during the colonial period, with colonial governments strictly enforcing regulations on the use of land, water and forest, which led to greater animosity with local communities and a backlash against the regulations after independence.

Hillside farming in the Ulugurus mountains, Tanzania, is causing erosion and impacting water quality in the Ruvu river, the source of Dar es Salaam's water.

Hillside farming in the Ulugurus mountains, Tanzania, is causing erosion and impacting water quality in the Ruvu river, the source of Dar es Salaam's water. Photo: V. Meadu.

Different approaches to governance were adopted across Africa during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Decentralization, where authority for natural resource management is shifted from central government agencies to more local authorities, has been a continental trend over the last decade. Most countries have now adopted laws that recognize the role of community groups in land, water and forest management.

The provision of information about conservation practices, particularly information on agroforestry and soil and water conservation, was most prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s, with notable successes achieved through programmes such as Kenya’s National Soil and Water Conservation Programme. But the recent trend toward more “demand-driven” extension and agricultural advisory services appears to be having the unintended consequence of diverting attention away from soil and water conservation per se.

Conservation vs. development?

The last two decades has seen the development of separate approaches to development and conservation. Agricultural development and poverty reduction programmes tend to focus on the role of ecosystems in providing inputs without due consideration for the function of ecosystems or the broad range of goods and services the ecosystems generate. Conservation programmes on the other hand, have stressed the development of protected areas, excluding people and human use from conservation areas, without adequate consideration of possible complementarities between some land use and ecosystem services. More recently, integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs) have been undertaken around some protected areas, attempting to address the needs of both people and the environment. There is little evidence, however, that ICDPs have led to significant improvements in ecosystem management.

Rewarding Farmers, Restoring Landscapes – a new innovation

Mechanisms of payment or reward for ecosystem services represent a novel and potentially complementary approach for integrating environmental management with human use of the environment.

Reward mechanisms are monetary or non-monetary incentives provided to stewards of ecosystem services made by, or on behalf of, beneficiaries of those services. It is the voluntary, conditional and negotiated dimensions of these agreements – rather than the form of the payments themselves – that differentiate payments for environmental services different from previous approaches.

Moving towards pro-poor PES

Concerns have been expressed that rewards for environmental services may disproportionately benefit relatively wealthy people, or even be biased against poor people. Costa Rica’s first national programme for payment of environmental services provided payments for conservation of private forests, with relatively wealthy forest owners receiving the bulk of the funds. Lessons from that

V. Meadu.

A farmer in Kibungo Ju, Ulugurus Mts, Tanzania. Photo: V. Meadu.

experience have influenced other national programmes in Mexico and the Brazilian Amazon, with Payments for Environmental Service payments targeted to less wealthy farmers. Recent experience from Indonesia, the Philippines and Bolivia suggests that rewards for environmental services may in fact be pro-poor, especially if they strengthen property rights and social claims for poor or disadvantaged populations.

Over the last 20 years, Africa has accumulated some experiences with similar mechanisms. Across East and Southern Africa, there are a number of innovative projects for community-based wildlife and forest management. Communities that adhere to management agreements with wildlife and forestry authorities either receive direct payments through conservation organizations or are eligible to receive generate income from hunting, tourism or collection of forest products. While the promise the Clean Development Mechanism has not yet materialized for Africa, there already are at least 20 voluntary carbon sequestration projects in Africa. Innovative government programmes have also been tried in some African countries: the South Africa Working for Water Programme provides incentives for rural communities to clear invasive alien trees in exchange for good wages. Payments for protecting watershed function is the next frontier, with very real possibilities for water and electricity companies paying farmers in maintain the quantity and quality of water going into reservoirs.

Interest in all types of rewards for ecosystem services has been particularly strong in the last few years, with many regional and international organizations concerned with African development indicating strong interest in payments and other rewards for environmental services. For example, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa has recently conferred a grant to a consortium of research organizations to establish “evidence-based frameworks for valuation, attribution and compensation for environmental services.” The Africa Forest Research Network Sustainable Forest Management project “commissioned feasibility studies in such new areas as the potential value of carbon trading (under CDM) and other environmental services in promoting sustainable forest management (SFM) in Africa. The June 2006 Global Symposium on Defying Nature’s End: the African Context concluded: “emerging mechanisms for environmental service payments need to be understood and expanded to quickly increase and leverage action.” Despite these experiences and interests, adoption of reward mechanisms is still at the incipient stage across Africa.