Faculty from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment have been working with Mexico’s National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) since 2007 on evaluating national-level payment for environmental service programs designed to protect forest resources. Originally created in 2003, CONAFOR's national Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) program made payments directly to landowners for forest conservation as a proxy for ecosystem services in hydrological systems, biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration.
Further refining the program in 2008, CONAFOR created Fondos Concurrentes (matching funds), in which it partners with local and regional organizations that directly represent the users of those ecosystem, such as water utilities, municipal and state governments, and civil society organizations. The newer program has had greater success in establishing explicit links between the producers and beneficiaries of environmental services in some locations, but not all have been as successful. CONAFOR has requested assistance from the Nicholas School of the Environment along with Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy to further refine the program.
The three-year grant from the Tinker Foundation will enable the Duke researchers to work with CONAFOR to conduct extensive case studies in order to identify the elements that distinguish those successful partnerships. The studies will examine data on the local ecological, socioeconomic and political conditions that may have strengthened or weakened Fondos Concurrentes’ effectiveness and will include interviews and focus groups with participants and informants involved at multiple levels at each site. Following assessment of the case studies researchers will consider and test various program refinements, after which they will produce a document of best-practice rules for a revised Fondos Concurrentes that will be sustainable as a local mechanism for environmental services payments.