Thursday, February 14, 2013

Paying farmers to protect forest watersheds in Vietnam & China: The long-term prognosis

Maya Thatcher in Forest News, a blog by the Center for International Forestry Research: As China and Vietnam move toward decentralised, market-based economies, they will need to improve the cost-effectiveness of ambitious programmes offering cash rewards to farmers who help protect forests, watersheds and other vulnerable ecosystems, a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research suggests.

Local communities, whose participation at the moment is generally mandatory, will also need to have a greater say in how they manage the land. “The key is to find a way to make these Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes sustainable in the long run,” said Vijay Kolinjivadi, lead author of the report looking at the governments’ driving role in the projects and what impact that has. “As currently designed, these schemes may eventually require external funding, from international donors or non-governmental organisations,” he said. “Local stakeholders need to understand the long-term benefits of ecological stewardship.”

Policymakers across the globe worry about how the food, water and shelter needs of seven billion people may be irreparably damaging our planet. The clearing of tropical forests, intensified farming production and industrial-scaled ranching have resulted in soil erosion, deterioration of water resources and a general loss of biodiversity. China and Vietnam, which have both experienced unprecedented economic growth in recent decades, are offering incentives to those who adopt land use practices that benefit society as a whole.

But these programmes, aimed at protecting forests and promoting watershed conservation, have cost tens of billions of dollars. And because they are carried out on state-controlled land, farmers have little choice but to take part and have little or no sense of ownership.

Kolinjivadi hopes district chiefs, farmer councils, and other local institutions will eventually play a larger, more significant role. “We have a unique opportunity here,” said Kolinjivadi, who sees the role of the government eventually shifting from primary driver to facilitator, promoting direct, fair negotiations between contracting parties....

A forest wetlands in Tịnh Biên and An Gaing, Vietnam, shot by Thuydaonguyen, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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