Assessing how payments for watershed services programs interact with rural labor and land use practices
Payments for Watershed Services (PWS) is a market-based conservation mechanism that inscribes economic value onto ecological processes associated with a watershed. Downstream urban water users compensate upstream rural landholders for practices that promote the conservation of hydrologically important ecosystems. The focus of PWS efforts is to influence land use, and land use practices are intertwined with labor. To understand the social dimensions of PWS in a community, it is therefore imperative to assess its interaction with land use and labor practices. My case study is a program called FONAG, which is based in the watershed that serves the metropolitan area of Quito, Ecuador. FONAG is well established and is the model for many other programs in South America. To assess how FONAG projects interact with land use and labor practices in the larger community, I have created an innovative approach integrating a close-ended survey with a land-use walking tour mapping exercise in which participants actively show and describe spaces of land use and the labor required for those activities. This approach yields both quantitative and qualitative data that can be applied to assess patterns from the household to a community scale. As PWS programs continue to spread throughout developing countries, my research contributes important knowledge on how PWS interacts with the lives of people.