Re: Payments for environmental services (PES) in theory and practice: Lessons learned and way forward

Adam Drucker Bioversity International, Italy
FSN Forum

Despite the existence of important ecosystem services specifically associated with the maintenance of agrobiodiversity (e.g. related to: agroecosystem resilience in the face of climate change and emerging pests and diseases; and the maintenance of gene flow, evolutionary processes and future option values, as well as underlying traditional knowledge and seed systems), PES schemes have, to date, largely ignored agrobiodiversity conservation issues per se. Instead they have tended to focus on carbon sequestration, wild biodiversity and water management.

Bioversity International and its partners have consequently been exploring innovative developing country applications of PES through an assessment of the potential of so-called “payments for agrobiodiversity conservation services” (PACS) to serve as a least-cost and pro-poor agrobiodiversity conservation incentive scheme.

Following the development of a conceptual framework and the identification of conservation priorities for a case study threatened Andean grain in Peru and Bolivia, competitive tenders (reverse auctions) were implemented across a number of communities in each country in 2010-2011 in order to determine farmer willingness to provide conservation services. Selection criteria were developed in order to facilitate the identification of preferred farmers/communities to undertake such services based on efficiency, effectiveness and equity (pro-poor) considerations (Narloch et al., 2011a; Narloch et al., 2011b)

Findings (see video, factsheets and journal articles indicated) show that farmers/communities were indeed willing to undertake a conservation services contract for the threatened genetic resources and that participation costs vary widely between communities, thereby creating opportunities to minimize intervention costs by selecting least-cost providers. In-kind, community-level rewards (rather than cash payments made to individuals) were shown to provide sufficient incentives and suggest that a number of them could be provided through existing government agricultural and educational development programmes. The circumstances under which such incentives may build upon rather than crowd-out pro-social behavior related to existing institutions of collective action was explored (Narloch et al., 2012; Midler et al., forthcoming). Research also revealed how tender selection protocols may be designed to account for local perceptions of fairness (i.e. accounting for such principles as proportionality, inclusiveness, consensus and distributional equality) in order to facilitate political acceptability and long-run sustainability of the intervention (Narloch et al., forthcoming)

The enthusiasm of the project participants to maintain the threatened genetic resources in future years, regardless of any further intervention (see farmer quotes in the PACS video) and their interest in exploring market development opportunities for the case study genetic resources, suggests that the potential for PACS to support national biodiversity policy implementation and make a significant contribution to agrobiodiversity conservation and use goals, as well as to improve poor farmer livelihoods, once it is up-scaled, continues to appear promising.

Future Research and Development

In addition to issues related to targeting, strategic prioritization (since not everything can be saved) and establishing scientifically rigorous relationships between specific conservation goals and actual ecosystem service provision, future research and development issues include consideration of the degree of potential complementarity between more conventional niche product/value chain development initiatives and PACS. The potential to use market development approaches as a cornerstone of a PACS-related wide-ranging cost-effective, diversity maximizing national agrobiodiversity management strategy (as opposed to the many examples of individual threatened crop and livestock genetic resources market development applications) remains to be explored.

Further Information:

A video, policy brief and a series of short fact sheets and technical notes in English and Spanish, as well as scientific articles related to PACS can be found on:

Adam Drucker