Cash only? Preferences for a PES contract in Chiapas, Mexico

Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) have been promoted worldwide as a means to incentivise biodiversity, forest conservation and sustainable forest management. Mexico has been at the forefront of PES implementation since 2003, and the country has now more than 2.6 million hectares under a variety of PES contracts.

In a new article, led by Sébastien Costedoat and published this month in Land Use Policy, we perform a choice experiment with a group of 82 community forest owners who are receiving a payment for providing biodiversity-related ecosystem services in the state of Chiapas. Considering possible future evolutions in contract design, we explore individuals preferences over contract characteristics including who is involved in deciding the parcels to be included in the contract, the type of technical intermediary, the level of payment and the type of incentive (either in individual cash payments or in collective investments).

Our results show a reluctance to decide collectively on issues related to forest conservation, as well as on dedicating a share of payments to collective projects. We find strong individual preferences for payments in cash, even when the amount of monetary compensation is lower than in the existing PES contract, and we show that most participants value positively the help received by external service providers in PES implementation. An analysis of preference heterogeneity suggests that community leaders play a key role in moderating individual preferences and enhancing participation structured around working groups.

We argue that the willingness to accept a PES program is greatly dependent on local governance factors. As such, exploring ways for PES contractual options to match the diversity of local conditions and individual preferences – allowing a modular allocation of PES into cash or investment on an individual or collective basis- could further stimulate participation in Mexico’s PES programme.

 

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