Paulo Barreiro Sanjines, MEM

2011 Compton Fellow in Costa Rica

Walking under the shade: Social Analysis of the national Payment for Environmental Services policy in Agroforestry + Coffee systems in Costa Rica



In Costa Rica, there has been a significant trend in converting small shade-grown coffee plantations to alternative and more profitable land uses. This transition has impacted 55,000 coffee growers, and has left as many as 22,000 without work.

Payment for Environmental Services (PES) has been implemented by the Costa Rican government as a market policy tool to help mitigate the distress experienced by such landowners. It is still not clear how equitably distributed these funds are, as some maintain that the requirements and incentives set by the FONAFIFO empower landowners capable of conserving large amounts of forest, thereby marginalizing smaller landowners.

This research aims to compare and evaluate the potential of the current and a proposed PES policy as a tool to ease access to livelihood assets for coffee farmers.

A series of 11 interviews with organizations working with coffee production and export, as well as the PES policy, will help clarify the inner workings of said policy and the institutional relationship amongst key actors. 160 household surveys were done at communities in Los Santos (Districts of Leon Cortez, Tarrazu and Dota). Through the surveys I intend to inform the coffee farmer’s readiness and willingness to participate in PES, and evaluate their current level of access to livelihood assets. Finally, three Focal Discussion Groups (i.e. one per district) were conducted to help clarify the level of understanding, expectations and concerns regarding the PES policy.

Preliminary data analysis shows that current PES requirements and incentives make the policy unattractive to small and medium size coffee farmers (17% are willing to participate in current PES), who prefer an incentive for their Agroforestry System rather than reforesting their farms (58% would participate in the proposed PES). Nevertheless, the proposed PES will not achieve its goals until a stronger institutional framework is put into place to harness the existing assets.


Opportunity Analysis of Payment for Ecosystem Services: Policy Design and Implementation for Coffee Agroforestry Systems in Costa Rica