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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 345-355

Can Payments for Environmental Services Strengthen Social Capital, Encourage Distributional Equity, and Reduce Poverty?

1 Current affiliation: Environmental Sustainability, City of Hollywood, FL; Research undertaken at: Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA
2 Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA

Correspondence Address:
David Barton Bray
Florida International University, Miami, FL
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.179880

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This study examines the relationship between the Mexican payment for environmental services (PES) programme, social capital and collective action, equity in distribution of benefits, and poverty alleviation in a case study in the Sierra Norte region of the state of Oaxaca. We address these issues with a household survey in two communities; and survey and ethnographic data on the six-community organisation - the Natural Resource Committee of the Upper Chinantla (CORENCHI). We suggest that the Mexican common property agrarian system greatly facilitates payments to entire communities of rights holders who then have the potential to build on existing social capital through having to make decisions about the use of their common property. Much of the work on social capital, distributional equity, and poverty alleviation has been theoretical or speculative but our study provides empirical support for part of this work. We find that PES in these communities has strengthened social capital and collective action, including in the emergence of regional collective action in the inter-community organisation. We also find that the PES payments are perceived as fair by the communities because of the high degree of participation in distributional policies, with a modest positive effect on a multidimensional measure of poverty.

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