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Can Payments for Ecosystem Services Contribute to Adaptation to Climate Change? Insights from a Watershed in Kenya

Isabel van de Sand, Department for International Development (DFID), London, UK; former Researcher at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Bonn, Germany; former Research Fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya
John K. Mwangi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya; PhD Fellow, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya
Sara Namirembe, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06199-190147

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Abstract

Climate change presents new challenges for the management of social-ecological systems and the ecosystem services they provide. Although the instrument of payments for ecosystem services (PES) has emerged as a promising tool to safeguard or enhance the provision of ecosystem services (ES), little attention has been paid to the potential role of PES in climate change adaptation. As an external stressor climate change has an impact on the social-ecological system in which PES takes place, including the various actors taking part in the PES scheme. Following a short description of the conceptual link between PES and adaptation to climate change, we provide practical insights into the relationship between PES and adaptation to climate change by presenting results from a case study of a rural watershed in Kenya. Drawing upon the results of a participatory vulnerability assessment among potential ecosystem service providers in Sasumua watershed north of Nairobi, we show that PES can play a role in enhancing adaptation to climate change by influencing certain elements of adaptive capacity and incentivizing adaptation measures. In addition, trade-offs and synergies between proposed measures under PES and adaptation to climate change are identified. Results show that although it may not be possible to establish PES schemes based on water utilities as the sole source of financing, embedding PES in a wider adaptation framework creates an opportunity for the development of watershed PES schemes in Africa and ensures their sustainability. We conclude that there is a need to embed PES in a wider institutional framework and that extra financial resources are needed to foster greater integration between PES and adaptation to climate change. This can be achieved through scaling up PES by bringing in other buyers and additional ecosystem services. PES can achieve important coadaptation benefits, but for more effective adaptation outcomes it needs to be combined with vulnerability assessments and climate scenarios to ensure that these are realized and potential trade-offs between PES measures and adaptation measures minimized.

Key words

adaptation; climate change; climate variability; payments for ecosystem services; watershed
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087