In Latin America, payment for environmental services (PES) is a tool for watershed conservation that is becoming increasingly promoted by some government agencies, international development organisations and environmental NGOs. However, in pursuit of conservation, PES initiatives implemented at the watershed level may conceal the environmental impacts on local communities of private actors funding PES initiatives. Drawing on semi-structured interviews, focus groups and archival research in the Cauca Valley, Colombia, we present the case of a PES scheme in which several commercial water users paid for the conservation of the upper part of the Nima watershed as a means of securing the flow of water upon which they rely. We show how the scheme was predicated upon very selective interpretations of degradation and conservation, and the roles of those deemed responsible for them, that were mobilised by those groups paying for environmental services to the detriment of other water users.
- Payment for environmental services
- Watershed conservation