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Payments for Watershed Services Regional Synthesis

Dillaha, Theo; Ferraro, Paul; Huang, Marjorie; Southgate, Douglas; Upadhyaya, Shyam; Wunder, Sven

Payments for watershed services implementation remain incipient in Latin America, albeit much farther along than in any other part of the developing world. This analysis focuses on public policy, institutional factors, and political realities affecting PWS in Latin America. PWS programs featuring all five PES characteristics are rare in the Americas, even though the total number of PES or PES-like schemes (which satisfy most but not all of the five criteria) clearly exceeds numbers in Africa and Asia. One reason why conservation payments have been accepted more readily in Latin America appears to be that rural land tenure tends to be more secure in the region in terms of de facto control over resources. Without this control, users and owners of natural resources are in no position to be reliable suppliers of environmental services. Another reason is that commercializing rights to land use and land management practices is culturally and politically acceptable in much of the region. Major exceptions are parts of the Andes with large indigenous populations, as well as Venezuela.

Among various stock-taking assessments of PES schemes, the most frequently cited is by the International Institute for Environment and Development (Landell-Mills and Porras, 2002). IIED is currently updating its survey of watershed-focused schemes. National-level PES appraisals have been carried out by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and its partners for Bolivia (Robertson and Wunder, 2005), Colombia (Blanco et al., 2005), Venezuela (Blanco et al., 2006), and Vietnam (Wunder et al., 2005). A major finding of these appraisals is that few genuine PES initiatives have actually gotten off the ground: Some remained in the planning stage; others were abandoned before implementation. A large number developed into “PES-like” schemes that combine user payments with more conventional project approaches and included three or more PES elements.