Reconciling conservation and development? Impacts of incentive-based forest conservation in Peru




Montoya Zumaeta, Javier

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The question on how to harmonise conservation targets by fulfilling the needs of people whose livelihoods rely on natural resources remains valid to this day and continues to fuel important debates in academic and political spaces. In the context of forest conservation practice, some paradigms have emerged over the last three decades promising 'win-win' results; however, relatively little is known on how effective these have been in simultaneously meeting both environmental and socioeconomic targets. This research aims to close the knowledge gap by collecting, reviewing, and providing rigorous evidence of some arising paradigms, focusing on promised targets throughout the tropics. In doing so, I first offer a brief review of factors and circumstances enabling emergence of four forest conservation paradigms that have emerged and spread over the last thirty years; namely, Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDP), Forest Certification (FC), Payment for Environmental Services (PES), and Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiatives. In this regard, I list documented challenges and trade-offs that such approaches face when applied on the ground and are often overlooked by their implementers and advocates. I then review available rigorous evidence of the socioeconomic and environmental effects achieved by the aforementioned forest conservation strategies and compare their effectiveness in achieving promised targets. This comparison identified that PES had a slightly larger effect on conserving forest compared to ICDP and FC, although the effects on income and poverty were the same as ICDP. Following this I discuss the finding that, limited baseline data, elaboration of well-structured Theories of Change (ToC), and difficulty combining impact evaluation results with ecological modelling, are the most important challenges when implementing rigorous impact evaluation of conservation strategies in tropical countries. I next discuss the elements typically related with positive forest conservation outcomes, including enforced conditionality, spatial targeting, and price differentiation, which promote the introduction of targeted incentives such as in PES and REDD+ initiatives. I also note that the presence of such elements is very limited in six ongoing initiatives in Peru. To finish this analysis, I use rigorous impact assessment methods to evaluate the impacts of two emblematic conservation initiatives on forest conservation and participants' welfare in the Peruvian Amazon. While in one initiative I find some evidence of 'win-win' outcomes, no environmental nor socioeconomic significant effects were found in the other. Notably, a significant decrease of perceived wellbeing in participating households was detected in both initiatives - a consequence of frustrated expectations in one, and low transparency in financial management in the other. Finally, I conclude this manuscript by addressing each of the research objectives and providing relevant policy recommendations derived from my findings as well as guidance for future research.






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