Regional review of payments for watershed services: Sub-Saharan Africa


P.J. Ferraro

Type of Document:
Project Document


SANREM CRSP, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Date of Publication:

Place of Publication:
Blacksburg, VA


Introduction: Although there has been global experimentation with Payments for Watershed Service (PWS) schemes for almost a decade, only a couple of schemes exist in Africa. The two African PWS programs that are currently making payments are both located in South Africa. As described below, these two programs have characteristics that are unusual when compared to PWS schemes in Latin America and Asia: they are essentially public works programs oriented towards securing hydrologic services. Given that the most common definitions of Payments for Environmental Services (PES) in the literature do not include such public works programs (e.g., Wunder, 2007; Ferraro, 2001), one could reasonably argue that there are no PWS schemes currently operating in Africa.

To define a PES, this review adapts Wunder’s (2007) definition of a PES with two extensions. A PES is 1)a voluntary transaction in which 2)an environmental service buyer, who 3)does not control the environmental factors of production, pays 4)an environmental service provider, 5)who controls the environmental factors of production, 6)for a well-defined environmental service 7)using a cash or in-kind payment that varies conditional on the quantity and quality of the environmental service provided. Of course, there may be more than one buyer or seller involved in the transaction. Furthermore, the service itself may be costly to observe and thus the payment may be tied to observable performance that is correlated with the quality and quantity of the desired service (e.g., paying landowners to create riparian buffers that reduce runoff into nearby surface waters).

In addition to the two programs in South Africa, there are at least eight other initiatives in formal planning phases in South Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya. Presentations at recent workshops (e.g., East and Southern Africa Katoomba Group, 2006) suggest that other initiatives are being considered by field practitioners and government agencies, but have not yet entered a formal planning phase.

Given the paucity of on-the-ground PWS initiatives, one cannot write about an “African PWS model” or “regional PWS trends in Africa.” Thus this review has two objectives: (1) briefly characterize the South African initiatives and the proposed initiatives in other nations; and (2) describe the factors that likely cause Africa to have fewer PWS schemes than Latin America and other regions, where there are tens of such initiatives. The latter exercise is intended to help natural resource management and development practitioners think about the field characteristics under which PWS programs can succeed.

Additional Bibliographic Information

SANREM CRSP Working Paper No. 08-07

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