Pablo Peña, MEM

2012 TRI Fellow in Costa Rica and Peru

The Role of Law and Institutions in the Costa Rica PES program: lessons for other Latin American countries


Deforestation and land use change are causing rapid loss of forests in most tropical countries, prompting different sets of national approaches to curb deforestation. Costa Rica’s strategy to deal with this problem has been unique. It is centered on a national incentive-based program designed to promoted forest conservation. As a result, Costa Rica has achieved a net reforestation rate during the last 15 years, an extraordinary achievement for a developing country. In Peru’s case, no similar policies were set in place until very recently, with the Readiness for REDD+ plan and the National Program for Forest Conservation.


The objective of this research is to examine Costa Rica’s national payment for ecosystem services (PES) program in order to identify the opportunities and constraints of incentive-based laws and policies for curbing deforestation, which can provide useful lessons for the implementation of similar Peruvian programs. The research in Costa Rica and Peru is based mostly on qualitative data gathered through semi-structured interviews to government and NGO officials, and some quantitative information related to illegal forest activities in the past 10 years. Also, additional interviews were conducted to NGO personnel, government officials and local population in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, and Puerto Viejo-Limón, both in Costa Rica.