Payments for Agrobiodiversity Conservation Services (PACS)

Payments for ecosystem services (PES) have been widely applied as incentive mechanisms to motivate natural resource conservation where important public good ecosystem service values exist, such as in the case of forests, water, wild biodiversity and landscape aesthetics. 

PACS may be understood as a sub-category of agrobiodiversity-related PES that focuses on socially valuable and threatened local plant and animal genetic resources. 

PACS, like PES schemes more broadly, are based on a voluntary transaction of a well-defined service between at least one service provider and beneficiary, when the provider secures service provision (conditionality) [Wunder 2006 and 2007]. PACS creates the opportunity for farmers to no longer only sell an agricultural commodity, but also be rewarded for the provision of a conservation service for the good of society. Under PACS, farmers are rewarded for growing threatened genetic resources of high public good value; incentives are offered at community level and involve landscape-wide competitive tenders (spatial targeting concept). Groups define their participation conditions (i.e. which priority species/varieties to cultivate from a given portfolio, kind and level of reward needed, which farmers participate). Efficiency and social equity criteria (including gender) are then used by the project to select communities with the most attractive bids (payment differentiation concept) ideally up to the point that conservation targets are attained but in practice more commonly to the point that the conservation budget is fully expended. Conservation targets are based on a combination of variety areas (related to maintaining diversity, geneflow and evolutionary processes), as well as in terms of numbers of farmers (related to traditional knowledge and cultural practices) and communities (related to spatial distribution/targeting and landscape resilience). 

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Funding and implementation partners

PACS has been carried out as part of the Bioversity International’s Economics of Genetic Resources Conservation and Sustainable Use programme of work, in collaboration with national partners in Peru (Ministry of Environment, Regional Governments of Cusco and Puno, CIRNMA), Ecuador (UNORCAC), Guatemala (ASOCUCH and Universidad del Valle de Guatemala) and Bolivia (PROINPA). This research was undertaken as part of, and funded by, the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets, supported by CGIAR Trust Fund contributors. 

Results achieved

PACS have been applied to date in four Latin American countries, covering five commodity crops (quinoa, amaranth, potato, maize and beans) plus a number of 

others and leading to interventions on over 130 threatened crop varieties. While not all invited communities ultimately chose to do so, 156 communities involving over 1,600 farmers and 164 hectares submitted conservation service bid offers. 

Reward payments were funded through specific projects, as well as more recently with in-kind and cash support from regional governments and the private sector, respectively. As all the applications to date have been small-scale, with total payment budgets being just under USD7,000 on average, only about 70% of these offers (109 communities and 1,114 farmers) and just under half (47%) of the offered land area (77 hectares) could be selected to participate in the conservation activities. However, there is a large variation between the PACS schemes, with Peru, Apurimac, and Ecuador I&II taking a strong egalitarian approach and selecting 100% of the bid offers; while the Peru (Puno II) quinoa scheme was only able to select about 20% of the offers made with the budget available. 

On average, just under half of the selected farmers were female (45.5%), although this also varied significantly between schemes from a low of 5% in Chiquimula, Guatemala to 93% under the Ecuador I PACS scheme. Post-project intervention satisfaction has generally been high amongst farmers (for details of assessments of the 2010/11 experiences in Bolivia and Peru, including farmer quotes, see Drucker et al., 2015 pp.25-26).