Buying Conservation - Financial Incentives for Tropical Forest Conservation in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Abstract: Popular Abstract in English The conservation of forests is receiving increasing international attention. News reports of rampant deforestation for oil palm plantations in Indonesia or soy and cattle ranching in Brazil are the visible images that many of us know. Combating the loss of forests and mitigating climate change through the prevention of further carbon emissions to the atmosphere are prominent goals in global environment governance. In the quest for solutions and to reduce deforestation, monetary payments for forest conservation have become the preeminent approach in the last decade, used more and more worldwide. Confronted by one of the highest rates of deforestation in South America, the Ecuadorian government decided to implement a conservation incentive program in 2008. Landowners can voluntary sign up and then receive yearly payments for a period of 20 years, provided they agree not to cut down trees or to change the ecosystem in any way. Indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon own large territories with remaining tropical rainforests. Many Indigenous communities decided to participate in the government’s conservation incentive program and now receive payments for their environmental stewardship. What are the social and environmental effects of the conservation payments in Indigenous communities? Who benefits from the incentives and who does not? What changes are people in the communities experiencing? What are the long-term consequences of paying people for being environmental stewards? This thesis explores the different dimensions of the Socio Bosque program, with a focus on the Ecuadorian Amazon.