Skip to main content Accessibility help

Not the same for everyone: Community views of Mexico's payment for environmental services programmes



Conservation policies have often been designed and implemented assuming that targeted communities are socially and politically homogeneous. Payment for environmental services (PES) programmes have often overlooked intra-community differences, which affect the understanding of implementation requirements and access to benefits, thus underestimating their effects on the programme's legitimacy and impacts. We explore how the views of local communities about the socio-environmental performance and dynamics of Mexico's PES differ within forest communities, considering two groups: local community authorities and the remaining beneficiaries in two different PES programmes. Informed by a nationwide survey, we constructed 35 indicators and found significant differences between these groups for 10 indicators. Local community authorities concentrated knowledge and information, relations with outside actors and control over benefit distribution. We found that community authorities and beneficiaries diverged in their views about the extent to which PES knowledge is shared across community members, how related implementation decisions are pursued and the fairness of benefit distribution, which we argue suggests this is a form of ‘elite capture’ favoured by PES design and implementation. Efforts should be invested in ensuring that PES programme benefits are equitably distributed in order to avoid widening pre-existing social and political asymmetries.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence: Dr. Fernanda Figueroa e-mail:


Hide All
Agrawal, A. (2012) Local institutions and governance of forest commons. In: Comparative Environmental Politics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects, eds. Steinberg, P.F. & VanDeveer, S.D., pp. 313340. Cambridge, UK: The MIT Press.
Agrawal, A. & Gibson, C.C. (1999) Enchantment and disenchantment: The role of community in natural resource conservation. World Development 27 (4): 629649.
Alix-García, J., De Janvry, A., Sadoulet, E. & Torres, J.M. (2009) Lessons learned from Mexico's payment for ecosystem services program. In: Payment for Environmental Services in Agricultural Landscapes: Economic Policies and Poverty Reduction in Developing Countries, eds. Lipper, L., Sakuyama, T., Stringer, R. & Zilberman, D., pp. 163188. London, UK: FAO & Springer.
Alix-Garcia, J., Shapiro, E.N. & Sims, K.R.E. (2010) The environmental effectiveness of payments for ecosystem services in Mexico: Preliminary lessons for REDD [www document]. URL
Alix-Garcia, J., Shapiro-Garza, E. & Sims, K. (2012) Forest conservation and slippage: Evidence from Mexico's National Payments for Ecosystem Services Program. Land Economics 88 (4): 613638.
Asquith, N.M., Vargas, M.T. & Wunder, S. (2008) Selling two environmental services: In-kind payments for bird habitat and watershed protection in Los Negros, Bolivia. Ecological Economics 65: 675684.
Barnaud, C. & Van Paassen, A. (2013) Equity, power games, and legitimacy: Dilemmas of participatory natural resource management. Ecology and Society 18 (2): 21.
Brechin, S.R., Wilshusen, P.R., Fortwangler, C.L. & West, P.C. (2002) Beyond the square wheel: Toward a more comprehensive understanding of biodiversity conservation as social and political process. Society and Natural Resources 15: 4164.
Caro-Borrero, A., Corbera, E., Neitzel, K.C. & Almeida, L. (2015) “We are the city lungs”: Payments for ecosystem services in the outskirts of Mexico City. Land Use Policy 43: 138148.
Cinner, J.E., McClanahan, T.R., MacNeil, M.A., Graham, N.A.J., Daw, T.M., Mukminin, A., Feary, D.A., Rabearisoa, A.L., Wamukota, A., Jiddawi, N., Campbell, S.J., Baird, A.H., Januchowski-Hartley, F.A., Hamed, S., Lahari, R., Morove, T. & Kuange, J. (2012) Co-management of coral reef social–ecological systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 109 (14): 52195222.
CONAFOR (2015) Programa Anual del Trabajo 2015, Gerencia de Servicios Ambientales del Bosque. Mexico City, Mexico: CONAFOR & SEMARNAT.
Corbera, E., Kosoy, N. & Martinez-Tuna, M. (2007) Equity implications of marketing ecosystem services in protect areas and rural communities: Case studies from Meso-America. Global Environmental Change 17: 365380.
Corbera, E., González-Soberanis, C. & Brown, K. (2009) Institutional dimensions of payments for ecosystem services: An analysis of Mexico's carbon forestry programme. Ecological Economics 68: 743761.
Diario Oficial de la Federación (DOF) (2014) ACUERDO por el que se emiten las Reglas de Operación del Programa Nacional Forestal 2015 [www document]. URL
Durand, L., Figueroa, F. & Trench, T. (2014) Inclusion and exclusion in participation strategies in the Montes Azules Biophere Reserve, Chiapas, Mexico. Conservation and Society 12 (2): 175189.
Engel, S., Pagiola, S. & Wunder, S. (2008) Designing payments for environmental services in theory and practice: An overview of the issues. Ecological Economics 64 (4): 663674.
Figueroa, F. & Durand, L. (2015) Poder, élites locales y gobernanza ambiental. In: Gobernanza Económica y Ambiental: Políticas y Prácticas Socio-territoriales, eds. Rosales-Ortega, R. & Brenner, L., pp: 231249. Mexico City, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana – Iztapalapa.
Hejnowicz, A.P., Raffaelli, D.G., Rudd, M.A. & White, P.C.L. (2014) Evaluating the outcomes of payments for ecosystem services programmes using a capital asset framework Ecosystem Services 9: 8397.
Hendrickson, C.Y. & Corbera, E. (2015) Participation dynamics and institutional change in the Scolel Té carbon forestry project, Chiapas, Mexico. Geoforum 59: 6372.
Ishihara, H. & Pascual, U. (2009) Social capital in community level environmental governance: A critique. Ecological Economics 68: 15491562.
Kerr, J., Vardhan, M. & Jindal, R. (2012) Prosocial behaviour and incentives: Evidence from field experiments in rural Mexico and Tanzania. Ecological Economics 73: 220227.
Klooster, D. (2000) Institutional choice, community, and struggle: A case study of forest co-management in Mexico. World Development 28: 120.
Kosoy, N., Corbera, E. & Brown, K. (2008) Participation in payments for ecosystem services: Case studies from the Lacandon rainforest, Mexico. Geoforum 39 (6): 20732083.
Li, T.M. (2002) Engaging simplifications: Community-based resource management, market processes and state agendas in upland Southeast Asia. World Development 30 (2): 265283.
Méndez-López, M. E., García-Frapolli, E., Pritchard, D.J., Sánchez-González, M.C., Ruíz-Mallén, I., Porter-Bolland, L. & Reyes-García, V. (2014) Local participation in biodiversity conservation initiatives: A comparative analysis of different models in South East Mexico. Journal of Environmental Management 145: 321329.
Merino, L. & Martínez, A.E. (2014) A Vuelo de Pájaro. Las Condiciones de las Comunidades con Bosques Templados en México. Mexico City, Mexico: Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad.
Muradian, R., Corbera, E., Pascual, U., Kosoy, N. & May, P.H. (2010) Reconciling theory and practice: An alternative conceptual framework for understanding payments for environmental services. Ecological Economics 69: 12021208.
Muradian, R., Arsel, M., Pellegrini, L., Adaman, F., Aguilar, B., Agarwal, B., Corbera, E., Ezzine de Blas, D., Farley, J., Froger, G., Garcia-Frapolli, E., Gómez-Baggethun, E., Gowdy, J., Kosoy, N., Le Coq, J.F., Leroy, P., May, P., Méral, P., Mibielli, P., Norgaard, R., Ozkaynak, B., Pascual, U., Pengue, W., Perez, M., Pesche, D., Pirard, R., Ramos-Martin, J., Rival, L., Saenz, F., Van Hecken, G., Vatn, A., Vira, B. & Urama, K. (2013) Payments for ecosystem services and the fatal attraction of win–win solutions. Conservation Letters 6 (4): 274279.
Neitzel, K.C., Caro-Borrero, A.P., Revollo-Fernández, D., Ramos Ramos-Elorduy, A., Aguilar-Ibarra, A. & Almeida-Leñero, L. (2014) Paying for environmental services: Determining recognized participation under common property in a peri-urban context. Forest Policy and Economics 38: 4655.
Nygren, A. (2005) Community-based forest management within the context of institutional decentralization in Honduras. World Development 33 (4): 639655.
Ostrom, E. (1990) Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Pagiola, S. (2008) Payments for environmental services in Costa Rica. Ecological Economics 65: 712724.
Pagiola, S., Arcenas, A. & Platais, G. (2005) Can payments for environmental services help reduce poverty? An exploration of the issues and evidence to date from Latin America. World Development 33: 237253.
Pascual, U., Muradian, R, Rodríguez, L.C. & Duraiappah, A. (2010) Exploring the links between equity and efficiency in payments for environmental services: A conceptual approach. Ecological Economics 69: 12371244.
Perevochtchikova, M. & Rojo-Negrete, I.A. (2015) The perceptions about payments schemes for ecosystem services: Study case of the San Miguel and Santo Tomás Ajusco community, Mexico. Ecosystem Services 14: 2736.
Peterson, N.D. (2011) Excluding to include: (Non) participation in Mexican natural resource management. Agriculture and Human Values 28: 99107.
Porter-Bolland, L., Ellis, E.A., Guariguata, M., Ruiz-Mallén, I., Negrete-Yankelevich, S. & Reyes-García, V. (2012) Working forests and protected areas: An assessment of their effect for tropical conservation. Forest Ecology and Management 268: 617.
Porter-Bolland, L., Ruiz-Mallén, I., Camacho-Benavides, C. I. & McCandless, S. (2013) Community Action for Conservation: Mexican Experiences. New York, NY: Springer.
PUMA (Programa Universitario de Medio Ambiente)-CONAFOR (2012) Evaluación Complementaria del Ejercicio de los Programas Pago por Servicios Ambientales Hidrológicos S-110 y Pago por Servicios Ambientales derivados de la Biodiversidad S-136. Ejercicio Fiscal 2010. Technical report. Mexico City, Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Shapiro, E.N. (2013) Contesting the market-based nature of Mexico's national payments for ecosystem services programs: Four sites of articulation and hybridization. Geoforum 46: 515.
Singh, N.M. (2015) Payments for ecosystem services and the gift paradigm: Sharing the burden and joy of environmental care. Ecological Economics 117: 5361.
Sloan, S. & Sayer, J.A. (2015). Forest Resources Assessment of 2015 shows positive global trends but forest loss and degradation persist in poor tropical countries. Forest Ecology and Management 352: 134145.
Wilshusen, P.R. (2009). Shades of social capital: Elite persistence and the everyday politics of community forestry in southeastern Mexico. Environment and Planning 41: 389.
Wilshusen, P.R. (2010) The receiving end of reform: everyday responses to neoliberalisation in south-eastern Mexico. Antipode 42: 767799.
Wunder, S. (2008) Necessary Conditions for Ecosystem Service Payments, Economics and Conservations in the Tropics: A Strategic Dialogue [www document]. URL
Yamane, T. (1967) Statistics, an Introductory Analysis. New York, NY: Harper and Row.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Not the same for everyone: Community views of Mexico's payment for environmental services programmes



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.