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Paying for Ecological Services in Ecuador: The Socio Bosque Program in Kichwa Communities of Chimborazo, Ecuador

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Title: Paying for Ecological Services in Ecuador: The Socio Bosque Program in Kichwa Communities of Chimborazo, Ecuador
Author: McBurney, Matthew
Department: Collaborative International Development Studies
Program: Political Science
Advisor: Johnson, Craig
Abstract: This research draws from literature on political ecology, payment for ecosystem services (PES), REDD+, market-based perspectives on environmental conservation, decolonization, Indigenous Environmental Knowledge (IEK), and environmental governance to understand the impacts of a state-led, institutionalized PES program, Socio Bosque, on Kichwa Indigenous communities in Chimborazo, Ecuador. The effects of PES programs are debated with some literature arguing that PES programs positively impact local livelihoods and environmental governance and conservation, while others point out the negative impacts of PES programs. An understanding of the effects of PES programs will be gained by analyzing Indigenous participation and inclusion in the institutional, distributional and epistemic aspects of Socio Bosque. Decolonial methodologies and community engaged scholarship shaped the field research which used qualitative methods of interviews with community leaders, community members, and government officials and focus groups in Kichwa communities, which allowed for unique opportunities for storytelling and combined these methods with an analysis of government documents. These methodologies provide insight into local understandings of and relationships with Pachamama (Mother Nature) and allow for a comparison of these understandings with the epistemic underpinnings of state-led, market-based environmental governance strategies. The empirical evidence suggests that instead of improving Indigenous peoples’ well-being, Socio Bosque actively erases Indigenous cosmovisiones and drastically changes traditional land use and resource management practices. Furthermore, PES programs in Indigenous communities operate within a wider social, political, economic, and cultural context that has historically devalued Indigenous cosmovisiones and land use. The implication is that national, state-led programs and policies aimed at improving Indigenous communities’ well being and contributing to global climate change goals have reproduced and reinforced unequal power relations between Indigenous communities and the state. However, in spite of the clear negative impacts of PES programs, Indigenous communities do not conserve the environment and participate in PES programs because they are passively dominated or “awakened” by outside ideologies or forces, but they actively participate in a hegemonic ideology of environmental governance and resource management that, on the surface, seems to run counter to their own values and ways of living. This research shows that Indigenous communities have found ways to implement their own agendas within the framework of PES programs as a means of sustaining livelihoods and maintaining ties to land, place, and space, as well as continuing traditional connections to the communal, the natural, and the divine aspects of nature.
Date: 2021-01
Rights: Attribution 4.0 International

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