Ecuador Placeholder

Payments for the protection of ecosystem services (PPES)

About the Implementing organization

Name: Fundación Cordillera Tropical

Country: Ecuador

Year of establishment: 2000

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status


FCT has been interested in and piloting a variety of payments for protection of ecosystem services systems (PPES) in the Nudo del Azuay within and in the buffer zone surrounding Sangay National Park's southern sector for over a decade. Since 2006 FCT has been compiling data and publishing threats assessments on extant native montane could forests and páramo, while surveying economic pressures and needs of landowners and of rural communities in this region. FCT brokered a breakthrough PPES agreement between an indigenous Kichwa community at the headwaters of the Mazar River watershed, and the downstream hydroelectric company who would finance the construction of a cheese factory in the community in exchange for verified cloud forest and páramo conservation. Shortly thereafter in 2010 the Ecuadorian government began a 20-year payments-for-forests program, and FCT actively recruited and helped local landowners pre-enroll >4000 hectares of forestland in the Nudo del Azuay. Ultimately the federal program rejected all but 365 due to province-level land tenuring practices, but FCT has been involved in measuring and constructing the first rural cadastre of the area to rectify this on behalf of landowners, to facilitate their involvement in future such programs.

Nature Element

Forests / Mountains / Rivers

Type of Action

Protection / Access and benefit sharing / Advocacy for land & water rights

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Water security / Renewable energy

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The agreement between the indigenous Kichwa community and the hydroelectric company has resulted in the persistence on the landscape of huge tracts of high-quality native ecosystems, not to mention greatly enhanced verification and monitoring activities in the region. Furthermore, the hydroelectric company maintains the importance of its investment for avoided sedimentation behind its check-dam, indicating that stream ecosystem deterioration is mitigated at least for this portion of the watershed. Landowners owning 365 hectares of forest continue as participants in the government payments program, effectively conserving these forests for the immediate future.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The Kichwa community was able to take advantage of significant capital infrastructure investment to market a value-added product instead of the commodity produced by nearly everyone else in the region (cow's milk). Additionally, these PPES initiatives have led to the most direct income-generation mechanisms to keep conservation "on the table" in rural households, and thereby keep these important ecosystems on the landscape. These programs also contribute to the sustainable production of renewable energy at an efficient cost and a favorable environmental footprint.


The scalability of PPES depends a great deal on external market conditions, as well as the local context of needs and threats. The forest payments program (SocioBosque) is a national program per se, but suffers from periodic lack of funding and is vulnerable to variable support from successive federal administrations. However, the global market for payments for ecosystem services is growing, and FCT is actively seeking ways to implement future phases of this project at a wider scale.


Lessons learned from these PPES initiatives have been published, and are poised to inform their replication in other communities. Furthermore, with improved rural land tenure titles now a reality thanks to FCT's work to delineate and assist with official registration of these land parcels, FCT hopes to facilitate the invovlement of additional landowners in future replications of payments programs, whether of FCT's own design or of the Ecuadorian government, external development cooperators, etc.

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