Poor rural people have the potential to be important players in natural resource management and carbon sequestration. An IFAD-supported programme has helped build momentum and public interest in rewards for environmental services, and has developed ways to reward poor farmers who protect ecosystems in China, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines and Viet Nam.
The results of the initial Programme for Developing Mechanisms to Reward Upland Poor of Asia for the Environment Services They Provide (RUPES), which ran from 2002 to 2007, were so encouraging that a second phase began in October 2008. At each of the six RUPES action sites for the first phase, and 12 for the second, local institutions partner with the World Agroforestry Centre to develop reward systems that are appropriate to the local context.
“Many people living in Asia’s upland communities manage landscapes that provide environmental services to outside beneficiaries,” says Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre. “These services include clean and abundant water supplies from watersheds, biodiversity protection and stocks of carbon that alleviate global warming. Rewarding communities for providing these services reduces poverty and provides incentives to manage uplands in ways that enhance the sustainability of the lowlands, compensate for carbon emissions elsewhere and support global biodiversity conservation goals.”
Sometimes the incentives are financial, but not always. For example, providing secure land rights has been the main reward mechanism for watershed protection and carbon sequestration projects in Indonesia.
The process of identifying environmental services, valuing them, and facilitating the development of local institutions has led to increased awareness of watershed conservation and better land management in all RUPES sites. A similar programme – Pro-Poor Rewards for Environmental Services in Africa – is being implemented in Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.