Berger, García, M. A.
2015Volumen: Número: Lugar: ISSN:
Payment for Environmental Services (PES) Programs in Latin America and Mexico
have dominated the market-based environmental policy realm in the past decade due to
their new paradigm for solving the problem for ecosystem degradation. There are at least
three reasons why a careful examination of the design and implementation of these types of
programs is important for the environmental policy discussion in developing world
contexts. First and foremost, PES schemes offer several advantages: they are cost-effective,
they are institutionally simpler, and they are potentially good for poverty reduction.
Second, PES schemes embrace the user-based principle instead of the polluter-pays
principle and, in some cases, they have elements of a conditional cash transfer program.
Third, from a geographical perspective, PES programs are flexible and adaptive to local,
regional, national and international scales.
Despite the advantages from a design perspective, PES programs present a set of
issues and barriers at the implementation stage, especially within developing world contexts
where a set of preconditions must be in place in order for PES programs to work well. It is
particularly important in this regard to evaluate the effectiveness of PES programs in the
past decade in Mexico and Latin America. The main preconditions identified for an
examination of the Mexican case were well-defined property rights and a bias against the
poorest amongst the poor from PES program beneficiaries, which are mainly Ejidos. Based
on my findings in the PES literature and from the Mexican Pago por Servicios
Hidrológicos (PSAH) program evaluations, I propose an alternative framework to account for government, market, and communitarian failures that might arise at any traditional PES
scheme within a context of imperfect institutions.
In this investigation, I have posed the following questions: First, have PES schemes
as public policy interventions changed the behavior of landowners where the environmental
services are provided? Second, have the PES programs been effective in Mexico during the
last decade? And third, from a policy perspective, what can we learn from the governmentbased-to-user-based
PES scheme transition that is currently taking place in Mexico?
I find that government-financed PES schemes have caused only modest or no
reversal of deforestation, and that case studies of user-financed, smaller-scale PES schemes
claim more substantial impacts to achieve environmental goals. So far, inconclusive
evidence exists regarding side goals of PES in Latin America –mainly, poverty alleviation,
land tenure, and local economic development.
Content analysis of cross-scale surveys nationwide indicates low environmental
service awareness of Ejidos environmental service providers. I also find that the notion of
additionality is partially supported, in the sense that most Ejidos claim that PES programs
have made a difference towards environmental sustainability. However, the theoretical
concept of additionality in the literature only suggests dichotomist results under an either/or
Impact, process, and results-based evaluations of PSAH show positive impacts
(30%) in deforestation reduction. However, after controlling for leakages and slippage,
estimates show a very low 12 percent net impact of PSAH. By evaluating the criteria rules
to allocate program benefits among enrolled and potential participants, I conclude that suboptimal targeting has decreased the effectiveness of the Mexican government-based
PES program throughout the study years. I argue that relatively low effectiveness levels of
the government-based PES program in Mexico have since 2011 led to the construction of
an alternative scheme under the same program, Fondos Concurrentes, which is deemed a
transitional program towards user-based and market creation projects at the local level. So
far, scant data of this section of the program is available.
Statistical Analysis of 35 locally-based schemes under the Fondos Concurrentes
program shows, on average, higher payments and lower land extensions from enrolled
participants as well as a multi-stakeholder participation at the local level and bundling of at
least two environmental services in one project. So far, not enough evidence exists to report
significant differences between additionality from government-based schemes and
additionality from a user-based type of PES scheme.
Nonetheless, policy-oriented findings and recommendations were identified in a
local case study in western Mexico at La Primavera forest, Ejido San Agustin. Six major
factors have been identified: first, the need for a holistic and polycentric system that
considers potential leakages and spillovers generated by public intervention through the
PES-Fondos Concurrentes program; second, the communitarian appropriation of local best
management practices, in addition to a focus on craftsmanship during the early years of the
program; third, an evaluation of preexisting social capital conditions; fourth, monitoring
and verification systems that combine local knowledge and GIS technology; fifth, preidentification
of potential environmental service users and market creation strategies; and,
sixth, development of comprehensive technical support through academic institutions and
NGO´s, instead of a reliance on a single technician or middle man. Also, Best Management Practices must be used during the first year to establish a baseline for the development of a
monitoring and evaluation socio-ecological framework. In the near future, successful PES
projects will serve as a good source of data for future programs under the climate change