Gert Van Hecken
Crossfire: ‘Are we using payments for ecosystem services to transfer our responsibility for over-consuming natural resources onto poor farmers in the Global South?’
In the Global South, payments for environmental services (PES) have become increasingly popular as a tool to promote environmental conservation combined with poverty reduction. However, a number of concerns have been raised about this policy tool at the conceptual level. In the following debate, Gert Van Hecken and Kahlil Baker confront their views on this topic, with particular attention to issues of global environmental justice.
Drawing from discussions on the panacea problem in microfinance and natural resource management, we scrutinize a ‘green microfinance plus’ programme – Proyecto CAMBio – in a specific setting in Nicaragua, focusing in particular on its interaction with local development pathways. The programme was designed to promote biodiversity-friendly land uses through the combination of credit provision, technical assistance and conditional economic incentives. In our case study, we highlight the focus on individual producers, the implicit targeting of more established medium-sized producers, and the uncritical promotion of a particular technical model of production. The project might thereby have failed to identify and revert some negative processes of environmental degradation and did not consciously engage with the dynamics and political arenas of sustainable development. We call for a more holistic territorial perspective that is conducive to more strategic thinking about the interactive socio-technical dynamics and ensuing opportunities and constraints for different producer types and technical-commercial models. Such strategic reflection is both inevitable and political, as it impacts on the opening and closing of avenues for more or less socially inclusive and environmentally sound development pathways.