Willingness of Upstream and Downstream Resource Managers to Engage in Compensation Schemes for Environmental Services

Abstract
"Providing compensation for land conservation practices adopted by upstream farmers is still an alien concept in the Thai political context. The governance of common-pool natural resources, such as forest and water, has traditionally been under the control of powerful government line agencies, while the contribution of local communities to natural resource conservation have been hardly recognized by policy-makers. Drawing on a case study in Mae Sa watershed, Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand, this paper discusses the potential of developing compensation schemes in a socio-political context where upland farmers --mostly belonging to ethnic minority groups -- tend to be considered a threat to the natural resource base rather than providers of environmental services. Based on data obtained from 371 farm households in the upstream communities and 151 farm households in the downstream communities of the watershed, upstream resource managers' willingness to accept compensation for the conservation measures and downstream resource managers' willingness to pay for water resource improvements were estimated through the use of choice experiments. Results from the study suggest that downstream resource managers would be willing to provide on average nearly 1% of their annual income for a substantial improvement of the quantity and quality of water resources, which could be achieved by compensating upstream farmers' change of their agricultural systems towards more environment-friendly practices. Both willingness to pay of downstream respondents and willingness of upstream resource managers to accept compensation were positively correlated with age, education, participation in environmental conservation activities and previous experiences with droughts and/or erosion. The paper concludes that there is a potential for establishing compensation schemes for provision of environmental services in northern Thai watersheds if other actors, such as private businesses and local administration, contribute a substantial share of the budget and if all relevant stakeholders get involved in the institutional design of compensation schemes."
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Keywords
compensation, ecology, water resources, water management
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