Payment for Ecosystem Services and Landowner Participation: Informing Program Design Parameters and Trade-offs in Western Panama
[Co-PIs: Esther Duke and Dr. Josh Goldstein, Other Investigators: Gladys Beatriz Rodríguez P., Samuel Rodríguez of FUNDAVISAP, Jorge Pitty and Luis Olmedo Sánchez of FUDICCEP, and Ryan Finchum of CSU]. This project used collaborative processes to engage government, non-profit, and agricultural communities in exploring the potential for a payment for ecosystem services (PES) program to deliver conservation and livelihood outcomes in the buffer zone of La Amistad Bi-national World Heritage Site in Western Panama. Key Panamanian project partners include FUNDICCEP, FUNDAVISAP, and The Nature Conservancy. CSU partners include the Center for Collaborative Conservation, the Center for Protected Area Management and Training, and the Environmental Governance Working Group. The first phase of the project, completed in 2009, included an interactive PES workshop/training, and collaborative study design. Phase two included a survey of 344 farmers and ranchers in the study region about their socio-economic situation, their current land uses and practices, and their potential interest and ability to participate in future programs oriented toward the provision of ecosystem services under a variety of design parameters. Phase three consisted of data analysis and dissemination of results. Our findings highlight the importance of assessing factors that could affect landowner participation in a future PES schemes to inform decisions about program design to best meet stakeholder needs, while also making explicit trade-offs that will result from alternative program structures [with regards to environmental targets, landowner livelihoods, rural development, and poverty alleviation]. Our team drafted a project report in Spanish for Panamanian partner organizations and I made presentations to report results and discuss next steps for research and pilot program implementation in January, 2011. The team is currently preparing an article for publication in a peer reviewed journal. I raised all of the project funds for this multi-year research project, took the lead role in designing the survey and project plan, and managed the bi-national research team.