Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Gendered Spaces of Payment for Environmental Services: A Critical Look

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Gendered Spaces of Payment for Environmental Services: A Critical Look

Article excerpt

Over the last decade, payment for ecosystem services (PES) has emerged as an important strategy for the sustainable management and conservation of natural resources, including forests. Born from environmental economic theory's concerns about how to internalize external costs, PES subsidizes local community members for natural resource protection and sustainable use. Most recently, new PES schemes, emerging in the form of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), utilize hybridized market-state-donor mechanisms in attempts to reduce carbon emissions and support "pro-poor" development in forest communities. Mexico in particular is considered to be among the more advanced countries in their promotion of PES and pilot REDD+ programs, although Mexico proposes to use a suite of programs as part of their REDD+ strategy (Hall 2012; CIF 2014). However, the claim that PES is a more economically efficient means to achieve conservation raises important questions about the ability of these programs to also address a range of social equity considerations (for examples, Corbera and others 2007, Sommerville and others 2010, Daw and others 2011, McElwee and others 2014, Calvet-Mir and others 2015).

Indeed, several studies have revealed the potential harm of PES projects. A survey of 287 PES-type forest projects found that poor communities with inadequate political representation and property rights may not only be excluded from the market, they may also loose access to forest land (Landell-Mills and Porras 2002). In another survey of World Bank PES projects with the dual goals of biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation, only 16 percent made major progress on both objectives (Tallis and others 2008). Studies that document the tradeoffs in PES revealed that the environmental goals often outweigh or conflict with social goals and outcomes (McAffee and Shapiro 2010; Adhikari and Agrawal 2013). For example, restrictions on forest use have reduced household food security and income in some instances (Ibarra and others 2011; Osborne 2011; Beymer-Farris and Bassett 2012). Women and landless groups are often hardest hit by such tradeoffs (Boyd 2002; Molina and others 2014).

Looking at the benefits and tradeoffs of PES and REDD+-related programs in Kenya, Juliet Kariuki and Regina Briner found that women's exclusion is tied to definitions of eligibility that are based on a narrowly defined definition of de jure property rights, which dismisses that different degrees of access to and claims over land that shape women's access and use of forest resources (2016). Although the literature that specifically examines the gender dynamics of PES is limited, a recent review of research on how gender is being addressed within pilot REDD+ programs found that despite policy rhetoric to the contrary, women's actual participation and access to decision-making spaces in these programs are limited (Bee and Basnett 2016). In particular, limiting their participation results in increasing women's workloads, discouraging them from raising concerns, and restricts their access to direct benefits from such programs (see also Khadka and others 2014; Westholm and Arora-Jonsson 2015).

Amidst such concerns, and given that PES-type programs may serve as the basis for REDD+ programs, new global agreements require countries to address issues of gender equity, among other things, in local programs. As Mexico is hailed as a leader for addressing gender in early REDD+ activities, we need a better understanding of how existing PES schemes address gender and the material outcomes of these social dynamics. To date, very few if any analyses exist. Such inquiries are exactly what feminist scholars suggest are needed for a more robust understanding of climate change mitigation policy (MacGregor 2010; Cuomo 2011).

This article, therefore, explores the material outcomes of incentivizing women's participation within a PES program in Mexico. …

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