New research from Vietnam has provided insight into factors that may influence the likelihood of local people supporting schemes that reward them for protecting services provided by the environment. It suggested that local scoping studies and open dialogue with participants are essential for these schemes to be successful.
The use of Payments for Environmental Services (PES) to conserve ecosystems is commonly promoted as a win-win situation for both conservation and as a means of reducing poverty in poorer countries. Payment can be in the form of money or other incentives, such as food, training or jobs. Research into PES has tended to provide statistical evaluations of its benefits but little has been done on local perceptions of PES schemes.
The study explored local peoples' preferences for potential PES schemes in a National Park in southern Vietnam using a range of methods, such as interviews, workshops and observations. Data were also collected using participatory visual techniques, such as photography and video. Participants were from two types of village sites: those in the central zone of the National Park and those on the border.
All the respondents were willing to participate in future PES projects but to varying degrees and under certain conditions. For example, those in the central zone were less enthusiastic about PES, which may be because previous projects have failed in this area of the park. A degree of distrust of government and officials was found in both types of village and respondents tended to prefer partnerships with private enterprise/business for PES schemes rather than with the state.
Villagers living in the central area of the park had a greater desire to continue farming and increase the area of land that they could farm. This would mean that some PES schemes, such as those that aim to reduce agricultural land use, may not be suitable for these villages. However, participants from border villages were more open to developing non-agricultural activities and acquiring skills not associated with farming. This could be because their villages are less remote and residents generally have a higher level of education.
After discussion, most participants in both villages concluded that payment would be best as a combination of money and other incentives. Most wanted payment to go straight to the household and not involve too many levels of organisation.
Although participants were open to the concept of PES, the researchers observed that many people may be ill-equipped to undertake PES unless the scheme included assistance for this. It may be that participants would become less enthusiastic about PES once they are aware of the skills and resources needed to participate. As such, a thorough negotiation phase is necessary to identify what resources are needed and to communicate the rewards, conditions and expectations of PES.
By identifying the possible local barriers and enabling factors for PES, the research provided useful information for how assistance could be provided to these communities. Specifically, it suggested three requirements in the design of PES: a thorough scoping study, an emphasis on participation, and the possible use of schemes that supplement PES concepts with strategies from integrated conservation and development.
Source: Petheram, L. & Campbell, B.M. (2010). Listening to locals on payments for environmental services. Journal of Environmental Management. 91:1139-1149.