Forest Conservation on a Budget: Redesigning Payments for Ecosystem Services in Mexico to Increase Cost-effectiveness
Mexico’s national forest protection program, Pago por Servicios Ambientales (PSA), is one of the largest Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs worldwide, but its funding has declined sharply recently. This project aims to study whether the program’s cost-effectiveness can be increased by modifying design features. Specifically, we will pilot test the impact of requiring PSA participants to enroll all or most of their eligible forested landholdings (i.e. full enrollment requirement), an evidence-informed innovation in PES schemes that was previously tested in a randomized trial in Uganda (Jayachandran et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aan0568), but is not used in PSA or most other national PES programs. In partnership with Mexico’s national PSA implementing agency (Comisión Nacional Forestal, CONAFOR), a local conservation NGO (Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos), and Mexico’s IPA Country Office, we will pilot a ‘full enrollment’ PSA modified contract among a cohort of PSA applicants who were rejected due to budget constraints in one municipality of Selva Lacandona (Chiapas). We will assess the treatment’s impact on program take-up rates, avoided deforestation (converted into tons of CO2 abated to evaluate climate change mitigation impact), and participants’ income. The pilot will inform a full-scale randomized evaluation in Selva Lacandona.