Qi Zhang, a post-doctoral associate at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, recently published a paper on the effects of “payments for ecosystem services” (PES) policies in China. The paper, titled “Rural household income distribution and inequality in China: Effects of payments for ecosystem services policies and other factors,” was published in the journal Ecological Economics.
In many developing countries, rural farmers often practice unsustainable farming techniques that lead to soil erosion and nutrient depletion. In response, China initiated two programs in the late 1990s based on the PES principle, an innovative approach to environmental conservation which provides farmers with economic incentives in exchange for the provision or maintenance of ecosystem services. However, the longer-term impacts of such programs on rural livelihoods is not well understood.
In the paper, Zhang and his co-authors examine income distribution and inequality of rural households in Anhui, China, 12 years after the implementation of two concurrent PES programs — the Conversion of Croplands to Forest Program (CCFP) and the Ecological Welfare Forest Program (EWFP). Among their results, they find that households participating in CCFP have higher income inequality than non-participating households, while EWFP does not have a significant effect.