Desiree Lopes, MEM

2014 TRI Fellow in Brazil

A randomized controlled trial and quasi-experiment based evaluation of a payment-for-ecosystem services initiative in the Brazilian Amazon

The continued rapid rate of deforestation in the tropics indicates that traditional enforcement-based solutions have not been particularly effective. Only in 2012, a forest area of 4,656 km2, equivalent to third of the size of Connecticut, was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon. Of the forest areas cleared every year, more than 80% is replaced by agricultural activities. Large part of new agricultural lands have rudimentary, unsustainable systems as a result of an efficient credit system, a lack of quality extension services, cultural barriers, and several other factors. Together, they lead to low levels of productivity and the continued need to expand farmlands into forested areas. In developing regions like the Brazilian Amazon, with pressing economic constraints and regulatory imperfections, the engagement of land users whose livelihoods depend on land resources are critical to develop sustained conservation solutions.

Our randomized controlled trial-based evaluation aims to find the best ways to induce farmers and ranchers in the Brazilian Amazon to adopt higher-productivity agricultural practices that do not rely on further deforestation to increase household income, such as rotational cattle grazing. Exploratory investigation has indicated that improving access to credit and extension services may be critical.