Fellow Story

McElwee analyzes community-based Payment for Forest Environmental Services models in Vietnam

Pam McElwee co-authored a 2022 paper entitled The challenges of collective PES: Insights from three community-based models in Vietnam. The abstract states that Vietnam has adopted a national Payment for Forest Environmental Services (PES) policy, which while primarily paying individual households for forest protection, has been flexible enough to allow for collective PES models to also arise. Such collective models have the potential to reduce transaction costs, avoid motivation crowding, and protect common-pool resources like community forests.

The paper analyzes three different types of collective PES models that have been tried in Vietnam: community land titles and PES payments to whole villages; group titles and PES payments to collections of households; and collective patrolling with payment contracts but without land tenure rights. The authors draw on fieldwork across three provinces to examine how these different forms of collective PES have arisen, and how they have articulated with existing forest governance institutions and local social characteristics. They also assess what the advantages and disadvantages for each model are.

Overall, they argue that none of Vietnam's collective PES models have achieved unqualified success in generating positive collective action outcomes, and each has challenges that have undermined group efforts, exacerbated underlying problems, or even created new conflicts. Based on this assessment, achieving a mix of individual (primarily financial) benefits together with collective rights and benefits is important for both social cohesion and forest protection. As a result, improving existing local institutional capacities and reinforcing group cohesion to achieve collective action success remain needed within Vietnam’s collective PES models.

Find the full text of the paper here