Who bears the cost of forest conservation?

@ATREE auditorium at 10.45 am on 22nd March 2018


While the importance for sustainable development of conserving natural ecosystems is widely recognised, it is increasingly evident that conservation often comes at local cost. Protected areas funded by multilateral lenders have explicit commitments to ensure that those negatively affected are adequately compensated. This study makes the first comparison of the magnitude and distribution of opportunity costs of a protected area in Madagascar, with the magnitude and distribution of the compensation provided. For the Ankeniheny-Zahamena new protected area in eastern Madagascar, we used choice experiments to estimate local opportunity costs, detailed agricultural surveys to explore these as a proportion of local livelihoods, and contingent valuation to estimate the value of compensation received. The annualized costs of conservation restrictions represent 40-120% of total annual income for median-income households; significantly higher proportionally for poorer households. Although some households have received compensation, we conservatively estimate that more than 50% of eligible households (3,020 households) have not and, given the magnitude of compensation (based both on amount spent and valuation by recipients two years after the compensation was distributed) relative to costs, we argue that no one was fully compensated. Achieving full compensation will require an order of magnitude more than was spent but we suggest that this should be affordable given the global carbon value of forest conservation. By analysing the local costs of conservation in unprecedented depth, we demonstrate that despite well-intentioned policies, some of the poorest people on the planet are bearing the cost of forest conservation. Unless significant extra funding is provided by the global beneficiaries of conservation, donors' social safeguarding requirements will not be met, and forest conservation in developing countries will jeopardize, rather than contribute to, sustainable development goals.

About the speaker

Mahesh Poudyal is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) Programme Directorate, and is involved in ESPA’s effort to synthesise its research findings as the programmes comes to a close in 2018. Prior to joining ESPA, he was a Postdoctoral Research Officer (Sep 2013-Jan 2017) in the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography at Bangor University, and led the socio-economic component within the ESPA-funded project P4ges. He is an environmental social scientist with over 10 years of policy-oriented research in developing countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The focus of his work has primarily been on the poverty-environment nexus, with current research extending to the issues of forest governance and environmental justice particularly in relation to climate change mitigation policies. Mahesh obtained his undergraduate degree in Environmental Economics from the University of York, and a Masters in Natural Resource Management from Simon Fraser University in Canada, both with university fellowships. He returned to York for his PhD, and while working for a PhD in Environment and Politics at the University of York (2005-2009), he was involved in EU sixth framework project on ‘sustainable management of shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) in Sudano-Sahelian zone’, and led the workpackage looking at the shea parkland dynamics in relation to climate and land use across five Sudano-Sahelian countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Uganda). He continued to lead that component until the project ended in 2011. With the PhD degree from York, he moved to the Department of Forest Resource Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Umeå as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2011, and was involved in the study of the forest commons in Sweden, focusing particularly on the shareholder participation in the governance of the commons, returning to the UK in 2013 to take up the postdoctoral fellowship in Bangor.