Ecuador is a developing nation with a large agricultural sector. The agricultural sector continues to contribute to Ecuador’s economic growth but also leads to deforestation. While climate change is of great concern to the country, ecosystem conservation is an immediate need. Seeking to participate in the international Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) program, Ecuador developed its Socio Bosque program. The Socio Bosque program is based on conservation agreements, where the Ecuadorian government pays landowners an annual per-hectare amount for forests that they work to conserve.
The Socio Bosque program is an incentive-based scheme that includes both environmental and socioeconomic targets. While conservation agreements are not a new idea, there are several features of the Socio Bosque program that are unique. Socio Bosque targets the poorest individuals and communities first, sometimes focusing on forests that are less likely to be transformed to agriculture when it has a greater socioeconomic advantage for the community. The Socio Bosque program is administered by Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment (MAE). The MAE has signed over 1,000 agreements with individuals and nearly 100 agreements with communities, covering over 800,000 hectares. The Socio Bosque program is straightforward and can be implemented in other countries. Valuable lessons learned from the Ecuadorian government for other countries include: