Pay, talk or ‘whip’ to conserve forests: framed field experiments in Zambia

By Hambulo Ngoma, Amare Teklay Hailu, Stephen Kabwe, and Arild Angelsen

167,000 – 300,000 hectares of forest are lost every year in Zambia, and different polices are in place or have been proposed to contain forest loss. But, there is limited evidence on the effectiveness of these policies.

We conducted framed field experiments with actual forest users to test ex-ante the impacts of community forest management, command and control, and payments for environmental services on forest conservation in Zambia.

Relative to open access, community forest management and payments for environmental services to individuals led to more forest conservation, implying that both monetary and non-monetary motives matter for forest conservation.

Forest reliance, measured by whether the participants sold any forest product in the month preceding the survey, significantly increased harvest in the experiment.

Female participants had significantly higher harvest rates than males. This result runs counter to assertions suggesting that females are more pro-conservation.

These results imply that better conservation outcomes might be achieved by some combinations of community forest management and individual payments for environmental services, provided the transaction costs can be kept at acceptable levels.

Thus, Zambia’s community forestry management will need to provide individual households with clear material benefits in order to compensate for the loss from reduced forest use.

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