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Evaluating Mexico’s Payment for Environmental Services Scheme


Between 1990 and 2010, Mexico lost 5.5 million hectares (or 7.8 percent) of its forest cover (FAO 2010).  Deforestation is largely driven by the conversion of forests to croplands or pasture. In response, Mexico‚Äôs National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) introduced its first program of payments for ecosystem services (PES) in 2003. The program encourages forest conservation by making payments to owners of ecologically valuable land. The program has grown substantially since its inception, encompassing 2.5 million hectares of forests as of the end of 2013, making it by far the largest PES program in Latin America. This activity is the first attempt at applying rigorous evaluation methods to a large-scale PES program, to extract valuable lessons learned for similar programs elsewhere. Mexico is planning to make PES a central tool in its strategy for implementing REDD+ and other carbon funds, so a better understanding of the impact of the current program on deforestation is critical.  


This study will be the first to apply the regression discontinuity (RD) method - the quasi-experimental method closest to a randomized controlled trial - in the context of a PES program. The study intends to evaluate several aspects of the program, including:

  • The use of payments differentiated by land cover type and economic pressure to deforest, in an effort to attract lands with greater potential environmental benefits;
  • Longer-term environmental impacts as a result of participant behavior, including whether applicants re-apply and what their behavior is upon exiting voluntarily or being rejected upon reapplication.
  • Whether enrolling forest land lead to deforestation in other, non-enrolled areas;
  • The impacts on social capital, especially in regards to the program component that encourages communities to organize themselves in groups in order to better administer forests;
  • Household socioeconomic impacts, and whether the program reduces agricultural or pastoral development and incomes as land is committed to conservation uses;
  • Whether households and communities are willing to accept contracts with different payment levels.

The methods and surveys developed under this study should benefit policy makers who conduct other impact evaluations of PES and develop forest management interventions.


This activity is ongoing. Findings will be shared on this page when they become available.

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Last Updated : 02-14-2018