Payment for environmental services in Costa Rica's Osa peninsula : a feminist political ecology perspective



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This dissertation investigates payment for environmental services (PES) programs on the Osa peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica. Three aspects of life in Osa Costa Rica are found to critically affect PES implementation: the unique geographical and cultural setting of Osa, a history of murky land tenure in the region, and the often underemphasized role of women. Osa’s mountainous forested terrain makes enforcement of logging bans very difficult without the help of in-situ “guardaparques”(forest rangers) in the form of PES-participating landowners themselves. However, the agency in charge of enforcing environmental protection (MINAE) is indispensable, despite its bouts with corruption and abuse of power. Broadly, though specific flaws in the PES program are identified herein, the program is, nonetheless, found to be a beneficial and core part of the ideological and financial evolution of the region. The related issue of nebulous land tenure in the region began in the 1960s and 70s when squatters were encouraged to settle and develop land on the peninsula. A stark shift came with the passage of National Forestry Law 7575 of 1996 which claimed all non-privately-owned forest for the state of Costa Rica, essentially ceasing the process of granting formal land title to squatters. This thrust hundreds of squatters into a state of legal and financial limbo, affecting their ability both to participate in PES and to sell their land. Gender is also central to this investigation as only approximately ten percent of PES-participating properties in the Osa region are owned by women (nearly twenty percent if married couples are included), yet a greater prevalence of pro-environment and pro-conservation attitudes is exhibited by women in interviews than by men. For instance, women more often mention “more time with family” and “helping the environment” compared to men when asked what are their personal benefits of PES participation. Also, a much larger percentage of women than men see protecting the environment as the responsibility of the landowner. The concluding chapter lauds the philosophical foundation and the overall potential of payment for environmental services and also proffers several recommendations as remedies for specific foibles of the PES system.