Valuing, Implementing and Evaluating Payments for Ecosystems Services in rural West Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE


The loss and degradation of tropical forest ecosystems and the associated impact on ecosystem services and biodiversity at a range of scales (from local to global) is widely recognised . These changes are anthropogenic, being driven by a range of processes the most important of which are agriculture and timber extraction. Deforestation is linked to human development. Recent evidence shows that development initially improves following deforestation, but then declines due to continuing ecosystem degradation . This shows that sustainable, long-term development is linked to ecosystem health. The forest ecosystems of West Africa epitomise these dependencies. Estimates suggest that about 10 million hectares of forest may have been lost in the 20th Century, and around 80% of the original forest is now a forest-agriculture ecosystem . These ecosystems provide food, fuel, fibre and a range of ecosystem services for over 200 million people. Forest loss and degradation is ongoing, being driven primarily by agricultural expansion and continuing degradation of forest-agriculture ecosystems. These cycles of deforestation and ecosystem degradation undermine rural livelihoods causing poverty , as well as reducing the capacity of forest-agriculture ecosystems to deliver key ecosystems services, such as carbon storage, clean water and biodiversity conservation. There is widespread recognition across the West African region that business-as-usual is not an option, but a more sustainable solution to the development of rural livelihoods is urgently required that simultaneously addresses the issues of rural poverty as well as the protection of ecosystem services and biodiversity. This recognition is fuelling burgeoning governmental, private sector, civil society and community interest in Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes. A number of pilot PES projects are developing across the region. The precise focus of these projects varies but all of them aim to establish PES schemes through the development and support of local communities and associated structures, thereby improving rural livelihoods, reducing poverty, and protecting forest-agriculture ecosystems. Despite their evident potential, these pilot projects face a number of challenges. First, there are significant gaps in knowledge and understanding required to underpin any PES scheme. Second, individual PES projects are inevitably rather isolated because there is no mechanism to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience across projects, or access knowledge and experience from outside the region. Addressing both challenges requires a combination of research and capacity building. Our ultimate aim is to develop the knowledge, understanding and capacity to support existing and future PES projects in West Africa that are designed to simultaneously address both issues of rural poverty and ecosystem protection. This will form the basis of a future consortium application to ESPA. We recognise, however, that additional north-south and south links need to be established in order for us to do this, building on existing north-south and south-south collaborations. First, additional north-south links are needed to bring together the required research skills within an inter-disciplinary framework. Second, additional south-south links are needed to share knowledge and experience across pilot PES projects, and to bring in knowledge and experience from outside the region (i.e. Brazil). Our application for a Partnership and Project development Grant is designed to address these needs at a workshop in West Africa that will set the research, capacity building and implementation agenda for the proposed project; establish management structures and develop an impact plan. This will then form the basis of subsequent proposal development.
Description This funding was intended to support networking and dicussions to lead to a major ESPA grant. A workshop was held in Nigeria with partners from several African countries. The end result was a successful grant application (NE/K010212/1), that is leading to major research in Ghana and Ethiopia
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description NERC ESPA
Amount £1,500,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/K010212/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 04/2018
Description Partnership with Nature Conservation Research Centre, Ghana 
Organisation Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC)
Country Ghana 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have successfully implemented joint research in Ghana and Ethiopia, and held a number of joint workshops with policy makers
Collaborator Contribution The implemented field work and organised policy workshops and engagement with stakeholders
Impact Joint publications, policy and stakeholder workshops in Ethiopia and Ghana
Start Year 2010
Description Article on cocoa work in Planet Earth 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Several researchers of this project were interviewed for an article in UKRI's publication Planet Earth, for the Autumn Winter 2018 issue. This article was intended to highlight the main findings of our work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description End of project workshop in Accra, Ghana in October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We held a two day workshop to discuss outputs of our work with key national policy influencers.There was much interest in our output and a clear path outlined to influence Ghana's national strategy on climate smart cocoa farming.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Presentation at the European Society of Tropical Biology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented at the Annual meet for the European Society of Tropical Biology in Paris on a talk titled "Quantifying Net Primary Productivity, Potential Poverty Alleviation and Forest Conservation in an African Forest-Cocoa Landscape". This was a focused meeting for primarily tropical ecologists; however, I was presenting in a session focused on human modified systems. It was a useful meeting for disseminating our results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Promotional ESPA video 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The ESPA directorate was interested to do a short documentary on our work in Ghana, called "Promoting sustainability and wellbeing in Ghana's cocoa forests". This was primarily led by our partner NCRC in country, with input from several of the UK PIs and PDRAs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018