Money for Monos: An Analysis of the Payment for Environmental Services Program in the Osa Peninsula




Norriss, Jessica

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Wildlife conservation and agriculture are often seen as conflicting activities, particularly in tropical forest environments. Focusing on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, this paper demonstrates that such topics need not be thought of in terms of mutual exclusivity. Additionally, this paper explores the ways in which rural Costa Ricans think of and interact with the primary forests and how they cultivate the land, either for personal use or for commercial agricultural practices. The Payment for Environmental Services Program (PES) is used as a framework to analyze the intersections of political, social, and economic ties to land.

The PES program has existed since the mid 1990s and has the potential to revolutionize the way governments and, in turn, people value the ecosystems and wildlife. Costa Rica implemented the world’s first program on a national scale in which land users are compensated for various environmental protection efforts. This ranges from reforestation to strictly conservation of existing forested areas. Funded by taxes, international donors, and down-stream benefactors, PES is a voluntary service that promotes poverty alleviation, carbon sequestration through forest conservation, as well as increased water quality and availability. Costa Rica’s programs, unlike other countries, implements both forest conservation and water quality provisions.

The social and economic implications of these programs have been written about extensively, justifying the theoretical and economic frameworks that underlie the payments. However, the claimed environmental benefits and socioeconomic impacts have yet to be thoroughly reviewed. Using an ethnographic approach, I triangulate the stakeholders, government officials, tour guides, and farmers. Additionally, spatial analysis through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provides a comprehensive view of the policy, economic, and cultural factors affecting wildlife management and preservation.


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