Bhutan learns how to improve payments for ecosystem services

Staff of the Bhutan Government have been trained by the World Agroforestry Centre in methods for improving their ecosystem services’ schemes.


Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are incentive-based schemes that bridge conservation initiatives and community livelihoods. The Government of Bhutan has established three PES schemes, coordinated by the Watershed Management Division, Department of Forest and Park Services, beginning in 2009 with a scheme in Mongar Watershed, which has reached its second phase; the other two have only just begun.

To help strengthen PES implementation in Bhutan, ICRAF collaborated with the Watershed Management Division to conduct a course on Training of Payments for Ecosystem Services: Concept, Theory and Practice. The course was held in Bogor, Indonesia, 7–10 December 2015 and covered four main areas: 1) PES conceptual and theoretical framework; 2) Case studies, tools and methodologies for PES development; 3) Lessons learned and best practices from successful RUPES sites; and 4) Facilitation to develop potential PES programs in Bhutan. The participants consisted of representatives from the Division and guests from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, Danone AQUA (a commercial drinking water company), Rekonvasi Bhumi and SII (Indonesian NGOs).

Dr Beria Leimona explaining PES principles to some of the participants in the training course. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Sadewa

Dr Beria Leimona explaining PES principles to some of the participants in the training course. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Sadewa

Dr Beria Leimona, associate scientist for ecosystem services with ICRAF, opened the training by introducing the PES concept and theoretical framework developed during RUPES implementation. One of the main lessons learnt from RUPES was that PES schemes do not always reflect market mechanisms (which seek the commodification of environmental services), instead, some compensation and co-investment in ecosystem services exists amongst stakeholders. The other lesson from RUPES was that PES schemes in developing countries have always been embedded within the poverty-alleviation agenda, thus, the design of PES schemes needs to be sensitive to poor smallholders who contribute to the provision of ecosystem services.

Theoretically, PES is often interpreted as a market-based transaction through financial or in-cash compensation from the ecosystem services’ beneficiaries (buyers) to the providers (sellers). This perception leads to the idea that PES schemes require substantial financial resources with which to compensate the providers and any scheme must strictly directly involve the beneficiaries and providers.

In reality, however, there are many cases of successful PES schemes that do not follow the market transaction mechanism but, rather, are based on the goodwill of beneficiaries and providers, with more flexible contract conditions. Thus, perception of ‘payment’ or ‘financial reward’ in a PES scheme can be converted into ‘joint or co-investment’ in the provision of ecosystem services, in which the beneficiaries and providers knowingly and voluntarily contribute to improve environmental services and, in parallel, their livelihoods. Several cases from RUPES’ sites in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines were presented as examples of the important role played by an enabling environment and regulations in shaping PES schemes on the ground.

Dr Betha Lusiana, senior ecological modeller with ICRAF, gave a presentation titled, Negotiation-support Tools for Ecosystem Services Assessments. She explained the steps and methods to scope ecosystem services and measure the trade-offs between the services. Betha introduced the tools that ICRAF developed to support negotiations between stakeholders over the provision of ecosystem services in a landscape, such as Rapid Hydrological Appraisal to measure hydrological services, Rapid Carbon Stock Appraisal to measure carbon stock, and Quick Biodiversity Survey to measure the agro-biodiversity level.

These methods are designed to clarify the ecosystem services that are available in a landscape while engaging all stakeholders’ interests. The Rapid Hydrological Appraisal can be used to mediate the interests of stakeholders in the provision of ecosystem services through scoping knowledge from the local, public policy and hydrological modeling perspectives.

Rahayu Subekti and Sidiq Pambudi explained the Rapid Carbon Stock Appraisal and Quick Biodiversity Survey methods, using a full day of field sessions so that participants could simulate data collection for measuring carbon stock and agro-diversity.

The training ended with a day-long workshop in which the ICRAF team helped the representatives from the Division scope the potential for a PES scheme in Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan. Phobjikha is a biodiversity-rich valley famous as the winter habitat of the endemic Black-neck Crane, which attracts many tourists. The poor local community, however, has relatively weak connection with the tourism activities in their area. The challenge was to design a PES eco-tourism scheme that could be aligned with the national budgeting policy for tourism. At the end of the session, the participants had identified the potential, problems and gaps in knowledge and policy that needed to be addressed in order to make a PES scheme in Phobjikha Valley work.

ICRAF continues to improve provision of ecosystem services and enhance smallholders’ livelihoods through the Climate-smart Tree-based, Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project. Smart Tree-Invest works with poor smallholders and others, such as the private sector and government, in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines to develop ecosystem services’ co-investment schemes that encompass all people with interests in a landscape and the services it provides.

Since 2002, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia Program has been facilitating PES schemes for smallholders in several countries in Asia through the Rewards for, Use of, and Shared Investment in Pro-poor Environmental Services (RUPES) project. ICRAF implemented RUPES in China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Vietnam until 2012 and, in 2014, based on the lessons from RUPES, launched the Smart Tree-Invest project. The International Fund for Agricultural Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry are supporters of both projects.



CRP 6 logo - small web




This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Sacha Amaruzaman

Sacha Amaruzaman is an ecosystem services specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre Southeast Asia. He co-manages the Climate-Smart, Tree-Based, Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project that is operating in Indonesia, Viet Nam and the Philippines. He also carries out research under the CGIAR Research Program on Forest, Trees and Agroforestry, mainly focusing on ecosystem services, socioeconomic and institutional aspects.

You may also like...