Payments for Sustainability: A Case Study on Subsistence Farming in Ecuador

By Southgate, Douglas; Haab, Timothy et al. | Harvard International Review, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Payments for Sustainability: A Case Study on Subsistence Farming in Ecuador


Southgate, Douglas, Haab, Timothy, Rodriguez, Fabian, Harvard International Review


A fairly recent innovation in environmental policy--and one that is favored by a number of economists--payments for environmental services (PES) are beginning to be implemented in order to protect water sources in Latin America. In a typical scheme, compensation is given to people in the upper reaches of watersheds, who in return refrain from land uses that exacerbate flooding, seasonal water shortages, and other problems at lower elevations. The receptivity of rural households to PES varies considerably, depending much on individual circumstances and livelihood strategies. For people who engage only in subsistence farming, which was long the economic mainstay of the African, Asian, and Latin American countryside, giving up a few hectares that yield little output in exchange for an unvarying conservation payment can be appealing, even if that payment is modest.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In contrast, PES may be less attractive to rural dwellers with diverse sources of income. For example, numerous households in E1 Salvador have risen out of poverty by starting micro-enterprises, working in clothing factories, etc. Nevertheless, they do not abandon farming entirely. Since few of these households have savings accounts or deal in other ways with financial institutions, growing some of their own food is the way most of them deal with the downside risks of off-farm employment. Clearly, any payments directed toward households of this sort would need to reflect the de facto insurance value of resources needed for subsistence whenever there is a shortfall in off-farm earnings.

To clarify linkages between households' participation in PES initiatives and their livelihood strategies, we have carried out field research in a rural community in the Ecuadorian Andes, thanks to support provided by the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of Agriculture. Based on this research, we conclude that the poorest rural households depend heavily on subsistence farming and would also accept lower conservation payments than those demanded by other segments of the population, who have higher living standards because of off-farm work but who also deal with the risks of that work by growing some of their own food. If households that are non-diversified and poorer are actually paid less--as would make sense if environmental services are to be secured at least cost--then PES initiatives are not the best way to alleviate rural poverty, contrary to the claims of those who are enthusiastic about this approach to poverty reduction.

Conservation Payments and Risk-Aversion

Fluctuations in earnings have been shown to detract significantly from the well-being of low-income house-holds in the countryside, so a conservation payment that does not vary has obvious attractions. This is particularly true for people who are risk-averse and survive entirely on the food they produce. The minimum payment such people will accept in return for not cultivating a few hectares is directly related to the average value of the crops they expect to raise on that land--an average value that is quite modest on average. Actually, the minimum payment is less than the average value if output is variable (as it always is) and if the recipient is risk-averse, as rural households tend to be.

While much of the rural population in the developing world engages solely in subsistence farming, a large and growing segment has two or more sources of income and consequently tends to be less impoverished. The latter segment of the rural population predominates in many watersheds where conservation initiatives are being undertaken. These settings are not out of reach of cities and other market hubs, so opportunities exist to complement the production of one's own food with an alternative--such as earning wages or running a microenterprise.

Two observations can be made about these alternatives. One is fairly well known, which is that off-farm work usually pays better than subsistence production. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Payments for Sustainability: A Case Study on Subsistence Farming in Ecuador
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.