Alternative Discourses of Payments for Ecosystem Services in the Global South

Call for Participation

an international workshop on

Alternative Discourses of Payments for Ecosystem Services in the Global South

Duke University

April 10-12, 2017

Applications Due December 9, 2016


Christine Folch, Department of Cultural Anthropology


Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Nicholas School of the Environment (


Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke


Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Duke University Africa Initiative

Duke Tropical Conservation Initiative

Global Brazil Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Nicholas School of the Environment


Payments for ecosystem services (PES) provide financial incentives to landowners to manage ecosystems in ways that are thought to produce environmental benefits: greenhouse gas sequestration, biodiversity conservation, or cleaner and/or greater quantities of water downstream. Based on a neoclassical economic model of direct, voluntary transactions and promoted as more efficient and effective than government regulation, PES and other “market-based” approaches have dominated the discourse of environmental NGOs and government agencies since the 1990s. However, few, if any, existing initiatives conform to this original model. Understanding the ways in which the conceptualization and implementation of PES has been altered by grounded political, economic and cultural contexts is vitally important both for theorizing alternative logics of the value of nature and for the pragmatic goal of designing PES initiatives with positive environmental and social outcomes.

Duke University will host an innovative, three-day international workshop to bring together practitioners and scholars who have been integrally involved in implementing and/or researching six of the longest standing PES initiatives in the Global South into collaboration with each other and with a diversity of scholars and students of PES at Duke University and beyond. Combining multidisciplinary perspectives and grounded experience, teams of practitioners, scholars and students organized around each case study will work together to:

During and directly after the workshop

– Collaboratively characterize the origins and substance of alternative discourses of PES related to the case study of focus and the ways in which these discourses have altered the design and implementation of the initiative and apply relevant theory to explain these dynamics.

– Work with the larger group to bring the lessons learned from the six cases to bear on the development of a holistic understanding of the dynamics and influence of alternative discourses in PES.

– Develop with your case study team a co-authored policy white paper and a short presentation to share your findings more broadly.

Longer term

– Develop a journal special issue or book based on the findings at the workshop combined with some follow-up investigations.

– Support further collaborations and cross-learning amongst the formed network of workshop participants.

Proposed Case Studies

While we are interested in exploring alternative discourses of PES broadly, the following six initiatives have been selected as the primary focus of the workshop:

Brazil ~ Bolsa Floresta, Fundação Amazonas Sustentável (FAS)

Ecuador ~ Programa Sociobosque, Ministerio del Ambiente de Ecuador

Mexico ~ Programas Nacionales de Pagos por Servicios Ambientales, Comisión Nacional Forestal de México

Guatemala ~ 48 Cantones, Totonicapán, Programa de Incentivos para Pequeños Poseedores de Tierras de Vocación Forestal o Agroforestal, Instituto Nacional de Bosques de Guatemala and Ecologic Development Fund

Vietnam ~ Payments for Forest Environmental Services, Vietnam Forest Protection and Development Fund

South Africa ~ Working for Water Program, Department of Environmental Affairs, Republic of South Africa


There is no conference fee. Some funding is available to cover partial travel costs for participants who are directly associated with one of the six PES cases coming from the Global South and can be requested at the time of application. Travel costs will include flights (to/from Raleigh-Durham airport), ground travel, hotel and most meals.

Participants should plan to arrive in Durham, North Carolina by the late afternoon on Sunday, April 9 and stay through the evening of April 12. Commitment to attend the workshop for its entire duration and to contribute significantly to the development of the PES case studies is essential.

Application Process

Applications must be completed by December 9, 2016

Please click on the link below to fill out the application that best matches your status:

1. Practitioners directly involved in designing and/or implementing one the six PES case studies

2. General scholars of payments for ecosystem services


Application deadline: December 9, 2016

Notification of acceptance: December 19, 2016

Deadline for confirming participation: January 20, 2017

Arrive in Durham: afternoon of Sunday, April 9, 2017

Workshop begins: morning of Monday, April 10, 2017

Workshop ends: evening of Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Final group PES case study white papers due: May 1, 2017

Please contact Kate Abendroth <> and Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza <> with any questions you may have about the workshop or on how to apply.

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