Theory versus Practice in Payment for Ecosystem Services in Totonicapán, Guatemala

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Payment for Ecosystem Service (PES) initiatives are a popular and wide-spread market-based approach to mitigating detrimental impacts of rapid land-use change that threatens vital ecological resources such as water, soil, and timber. The basic premise of PES involves a set of voluntary transactions between the buyers and sellers of a clearly defined ecological service. In theory, sellers - often rural landholders - are incentivized to adopt conservation-based practices to ensure delivery of the ecosystem service that buyers pay them to provide. Yet in practice, PES initiatives rarely reflect the original market-based model. A debate has surfaced as to why and how this approach to conservation is altered and contested by local actors, however few case studies have been documented. To fill this gap, this study documents the history of PES in Totonicapán, Guatemala. The study uses a series of interviews and participant observations to explore how local political, social, environmental and cultural dynamics led to the contestation and subsequent reshaping of PES programs by local actors. The results of this study provide insight on how PES may be adapted to improve conservation outcomes, particularly in rural indigenous communities.





Spaulding, Leanne (2018). Theory versus Practice in Payment for Ecosystem Services in Totonicapán, Guatemala. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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