What types of investment can most cost-effectively ensure ecosystem service provision? A randomized program evaluation

Lead Research Organisation: Bolivian Natura Foundation
Department Name: Socioeconomic and Policy Research


What is the most effective way to slow deforestation and forest degradation? How can we best increase incomes from collection of non-timber forest products? Can education and information provision lead to real changes in behavior that better protects ecosystem services? After decades of attempts to better protect Amazonian forests and the ecosystem services that they provide, we still have no idea what the answers are to these questions. Further, notwithstanding the importance of ecosystem services, we have little evidence about which policy interventions can best ensure service provision and alleviate poverty. A fundamental need is thus for the development of 'program evaluation' methods in order to test policy or intervention effectiveness. In mid-altitude Bolivia, as in many parts of the developing world, agricultural decisions generate negative environmental externalities, reducing the quality and quantity of environmental service provision. Forest degradation, often associated with extensive cattle grazing, diminishes water quality and quantity and increases risks associated with landslides and flooding. There is a global and local interest in maintaining these upper Amazonian watershed forests both for their role in mitigating climate change, but also because their conservation will help local communities adapt to climate change through the maintenance of dry season water supplies. Despite the importance of these ecosystems for local poverty alleviation, local communities continue to graze more cattle than the carrying capacity of the forests, thus creating a tragedy of the commons in which deforestation, water pollution and flooding increase, and human welfare suffers. Our proposed research will explore alternative mechanisms for behavior change to mitigate the negative externalities that result from forest degradation. Our first hypothesis is that by providing targeted local information, or otherwise building local institutional capacity, we can lower collective action barriers at the community level, which will allow for locally imposed incentives through sanctions or positive compensation. As an alternative hypothesis, external donors, through direct payments, may better provide such incentives for improved grazing practices (i.e. a form of payments for environmental services). A rigorous experimental design will allows us to identify generalisable relationships between the provision of targeted information and financial incentives and resulting behavioral and biophysical outcome measures. By phasing in payments in the second year of the project, we will also observe the interaction between collective action and externally provided incentives. Although the list of activities sounds relatively esoteric, the implications of this research will be profound. We will develop and refine the program evaluation tools that are most appropriate for evaluations of ecosystem service provision, and then provide the first robust experimental analysis of what works for environmental service delivery and poverty alleviation and why. Our research will show that if a donor has, e.g. £500,000 to spend on climate change adaptation, whether it will it be most efficient for them, in terms of CO2 sequestered, water supplies protected, or livelihoods enhanced, to invest in local capacity building, information provision or direct payments schemes.


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Description In-kind payments for environmental services were initiated in 65 randomly selected communities in late 2011. Initial take-up was low, as only "early adopters" joined in the first stage. However, by the end of 2012, 474 families in 57 communities had enrolled in the program, putting a total of 17,105 hectares under contract. The first wave of contracts was signed in 2011, and a year later, forest conservation compliance was 100%, while cattle removal compliance was c. 75%.

Although the compliance data is preliminary, and it is still too early to evaluate program impacts, the experiment is already providing interesting information about who joins PES schemes. Landowners who have joined the scheme are better off, are more involved in their community and are more likely to think that the environment provides them with benefits, than the general population. While these results are perhaps to be expected, this evidence may be useful as practitioners try to implement similar schemes around the world.

We have also learned important lessons in terms of field logistics. Eight people implemented the 2011 campaign, while the 2012 team had only five members. The value of the compensation paid increased by 70% between 2011 and 2012, while the cost of providing this compensation fell by 41%. Within each community, the compensation is offered on day 1, land parcels are measured before pre-contracts are then signed on days 2 and 3. Final contacts are then signed and compensations are delivered on days 6 and 7. It thus now takes less than a week from first offering the compensation package to a particular farmer, to actually delivering it.

Our research colleagues at Harvard, Tufts and the National University of Colombia are currently analyzing the data we collected during the project, while Natura's field technicians are preparing to enter the field in March 2013 to initiate the next wave of compensation deals. They will be expecting to build on cases such as in the community of Huantas, where 8 families joined the program in 2012, signing contracts to conserve 160 ha. In return for their conservation commitments, the families (5 led by women, 3 led by men) received compensation packages of apple and plum tree seedlings and barbed wire worth a total of £645, with an average value of £80 per family.
Exploitation Route To improve the design and implementation of conservation initiatives, especially those using incentives or markets
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment

URL http://www.naturabolivia.org
Description We have designed a new cost effective and efficient method for delivering small scale grassroots PES The PES implementation protocol that was designed during the project has made the process of offering PES contracts to individual and executing the contracts far quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently. This model is being used in other municipalities both in Bolivia (by Fundacion Natura), and also in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Our research has thus led to more effective public policy and decision making in the Andes. Based on our results, 30 municipal governments, one state government (Santa Cruz) and the Bolivian national government have developed new forest conservation and climate change adaptation and mitigation legislation. The behaviour and practices of more than 70,000 people have been changed: 2000 upstream farmers are conserving 230,000 acres of forested "Water Factories", and 68,000 people are paying them more then £200,000 a year to do so. Quality of life has improved: Bolivia's mid-altitude forests are better conserved, water quality has improved and thousands of families now have alternative livelihoods to destructive slash and burn agriculture. Similar changes are appearing in Colombia Ecuador and Peru.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Environment
Impact Types Economic

Description Development of national/regional/international development policies or investments
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The results of the research immediately refined government policy in the five intervention municipalities, and fed into the development of a statewide PES law in Santa Cruz Department, an area 50% larger than the United Kingdom. Based on our results we have also helped other PES designers and implementers improve their schemes including the Peruvian and Colombian Ministries of the Environment as they develop and refine new small-scale PES programs internationally. We have also used our results to promote the small-scale, non-market, PES concept with the Bolivian government?s Climate Change Negotiating team, and helped Bolivia to introduce a new concept into the UNFCC Durban COP17 document ?Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention? ? that non market based approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests as a non-market alternative that supports and strengthens governance, ? could be developed.
Description Funding for new development activities or projects that utilise or have been informed by ESPA research : Grant of 1.1 million GBP from USAID
Amount £1,100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AID-511-A-11-00003 
Organisation United States Agency for International Development 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 10/2011 
End 10/2013
Description Funding for new development activities or projects that utilise or have been informed by ESPA research: New GBP 775,000 grant from European Union
Amount £775,000 (GBP)
Funding ID DCI-NSAPVD/2012/309-452 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 12/2011 
End 12/2016
Title Baseline and endline socio-economic data from a Randomised Control Trial of the Watershared intervention in the Bolivian Andes 
Description ###This document explains the socio-economic data collected as part of a Randomised Control Trial investigating the effectiveness of a Payment for Watershed Services intervention known as Watershared (Acuerdos Reciprocos por Agua, or Reciprocal Water Agreements is the name in Spanish). ###The baseline data (2010) was collected under a grant from espa (Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation) to Fundacion Natura Bolivia ìWhat types of investment can most cost-effectively ensure ecosystem service provision? A randomized program evaluationî (NE/I00436X/1) ###The endline data (2015/2016) was collected with funding from two projects: an Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation funded project to Natura ìUnder what conditions can Payments for Environmental Services deliver sustainable improvements in welfare? Learning from a Randomized Control Trialî (NE/L001470/1) and a Leverhulme Trust funded research project to Bangor University ìCan payment for ecosystem services deliver environmental and livelihood benefitsî (RPG-2014-056). The latter project funded the cleaning and archiving of the dataset. ###The data consists of a) primary data and b) accompanying documentation. |--ReadMe.txt |-- data |-- HOUSEHOLD.xlsx |-- CHILD_DIARRHEA.xlsx |-- CONSERVATION_CONTRACT.xlsx |-- docs |-- METADATA_HOUSEHOLD.xlsx |-- METADATA_CHILD_DIARRHEA.xlsx |-- METADATA_CONSERVATION_CONTRACT.xlsx |-- CONSENT_ES.pdf |-- SURVEY_EN.xlsx |-- SURVEY_ES_ODK.xlsx #### (a) Primary data (within 'data' folder) - Primary data is arranged in three datasheets + *HOUSEHOLD.xlsx*: This contains all the information which was collected at the household level. Some variables were not collected in the endline; they were dropped following piloting as we found that they did not appear to work well in the field and respondents struggled to give reliable answers. These are not included in this datasheet. Some variables were added in the endline. Some data were processed to generate derived variables. The sheet therefore contains all variables which were collected in both the baseline and the endline, additional variables which were added in the endline and some additional calculated variables. 2623 households were surveyed in the baseline and there are entering here for all these households. In the endline we attempted to reach all2623 households but some had moved away, been disbanded due to the death of the household head, or could not be refound despite up to 5 attempts (1164 could not be re-found). The endline survey therefore includes only 1459 households. + *CHILD_DIARRHEA.xlsx* : This is a sub-table of the HOUSEHOLD table which provides information on each incidents of diarrhea in the last 12 months for each child under 16 years old belonging to each household. The identical data was collected in the baseline and endline. The children are linked to a specific household via the unique identifier ID_HOGAR. + *CONSERVATION_CONTRACT.xlsx* : This sheet provides information (from the endline only) on the management of a selected number of conservation contracts per household. It is structured according to the conservation agreements (each entry corresponds to one agreement). Each household in the HOUSEHOLD sheet (linked here through the unique identifier ID_HOGAR can have several contracts). This information was collected on a maximum of three contracts per household (if a household had more than three contracts, their level 1 contracts were prioritised). #### (b) Accompanying documents (within 'docs' folder) - Brief description of each document (name in parentheses) is provided below: + **METADATA_HOUSEHOLD.xlsx**: Metadata explaining each variable in the HOUSEHOLD datasheet. + **METADATA_CHILD_DIARRHEA.xlsx**: Metadata explaining each variable in the CHILD_DIARRHEA datasheet. + **METADATA_CONSERVATION_CONTRACT.xlsx**: Metadata explaining each variable in the CONSERVATION_CONTRACTS datasheet. + **CONSENT_ES.pdf**: The initial consent form used in the baseline. In the survey oral consent was gained before each survey began (all enumerators were trained to ensure they understood the importance of informed consent). + **SURVEY_EN.xlsx**: The endline survey (in English) showing the coding for each variable. NB Only those variables included in both baseline and endline survey are included in this archived dataset. + **SURVEY_ES_ODK.xlsx**: The survey was conducted in Spanish with enumerators using ODK (Open Data Kit) on android devices to enter the data. The initial Spanish language ODK code is provided here. ###The data was organised and prepared for archiving by David Crespo and Patrick Bottazzi (Bangor University) working with Julia P G Jones, Edwin Pynegar and Emma Wiik (Bangor University). ###The data collection was managed by Nature Foundation Bolivia (with input for the endline from Bangor University). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None so far 
URL http://reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/
Title Socioeconomic, water quality and biodiversity databases 
Description Socioeconomic, biological and water quality data for the 130 communities in the research area 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We have researchers from various other institutions using the database for their own investigations. 
Description Knowledge Exchange Partnerships 
Organisation Rare Conservation
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Partially based on the results of the ESPA research, we have joined in a new research consortium to further explore if and how best PES can work. This consortium is funded by CDKN and comprises Natura, Rare and other institutions from Ecuador, Costa Rica and South Africa. Natura is leading the fieldwork for data collection.
Collaborator Contribution We have a series of policy briefs, journal articles and technical reports in preparation.
Impact Green, K., A. DeWan, N.M. Asquith, L. Andersen, M. Pearce, and K. Alger. 2014. The Index for Climate Compatible Development: A framework for measuring the climate compatible development contributions of payments for watershed services projects. in review.
Start Year 2012
Description Capacity strengthening events/workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We have held a series of capacity building workshops in Bolivia, and Peru, to explain the research and its results to municipal and NGO staff.

After trying various different training methodologies, in 2014 and 2015 we held three iterations of what we now call the "School for Reciprocal Watershed Agreements (RWA)", training more than 60 representatives of NGOs and local governments from Bolivia, Belize, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador. The teaching is organized into an introductory background and then five didactic modules:

• Step 1: Verify the presence of the basic conditions for Watershed Agreements (i.e. bottom-up PES)
• Step 2: Create the local institutional structure: a three way fund between the program promoter (usually an NGO) the municipal government and the local water provider
• Step 3: Ensure financial and institutional sustainability
• Step 4: Present and sign contracts with upstream water service providers
• Step 5: Monitor and evaluate results

The course is organized into a six-day program that combines classroom and practical field work, culminating with each student presenting how they will take the lessons they have learned during the week back to their own communities to initiate setting up their own RWA.

We have taken the results of the student's projects and have started testing three modalities of post-school support: (1) "Light" (i.e. very inexpensive) follow up: In Pasorapa, Omereque and Aiquille municipalities we have undertaken two personal individual follow up visits by Natura staff (2) "Medium" follow-up: In Tarija, we organized one joint meeting between representatives from six different municipalities, alumnae and Natura, and 3) "Intensive" (i.e. more expensive) follow up: in Robore and San Jose municipalities we have held a series of municipal/Natura meetings.

The municipalities assigned to each modality (Light, medium and intensive) are advancing at different rates in their attempts to implement RWA. Perhaps to be expected, we have advanced most rapidly in one of the "intensively" treated municipalities, San Jose. An alumna of the school prepared the ground for Natura to present to the Mayor and municipal council, leading to a Municipal Water Fund being created after less than five meetings and within 30 days. A process that has traditionally been a six-month investment by Natura staff, was thus accomplished in less than a month thanks to the RWA School.

Unexpectedly though, the alumna's role was not to complete the entire process herself, but rather to simply do the groundwork and to validate to local authorities that Natura, and the RWA concept are "for real". This initial success of a "paving-the-way" modality will help Natura improve the RWA School processes in the coming months. As we continue to further refine the modalities, it is already clear that the training program has the potential to exponentially increase the number of municipalities, beneficiaries and hectares conserved through the RWA model.

We have held a series of training workshops in Santa Cruz city and in the towns of Moro Moro, Vallegrande, Pucara, and in 135 small communities with the goal of explaining to the public, and especially to interested parties who have been involved in the r
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.naturabolivia.org/en/reciprocal-water-agreements-school/
Description Presentations to national/regional/international panels or committees: series of presentations at Universities, NGOS and governments 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Nigel Asquith, PI has made a series of presentations about the results of the research

We have made a series of presentations about the research and our results, to academic institutions including Yale University, and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, to private grant makers such as the MacArthur Foundation, to governments suc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015