Dimitri Szerman explains the initiative, which takes place in the South of Bahia
Encourage forest restoration in the northeastern Brazilian of Bahia – this is what the South of Bahia project aims to. Supported under INPUT, it is a collaboration between Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), Brown University, Floresta Viva Institute and Santa Cruz State University. The survey project that began in 2015 and includes nearly 3,000 producers will evaluate payment for environmental services to rural producers of the cacao region of Bahia. Dimitri Szerman, CPI analyst, coordinates part of the work related to economic issues. He explains the project in the following interview.
WHAT IS THE SOUTH OF BAHIA PROJECT’S OBJECTIVE?
DIMITRI SZERMAN: This project consists of payments for environmental services, with two main objectives. The first objective is to understand how to motivate rural producers to restore their properties with species from the Mata Atlântica biome. Also, we seek to understand more about the biome’s natural vegetation restoration process. Our focus is how sustainable rural development aligns with compliance with the Forest Code.
WHO IS INVOLVED IN THE PARTNERSHIP? AND WHAT IS CPI’S CONTRIBUTION?
DS: The project is the result of a partnership between CPI, Brown University, Floresta Viva Institute and Santa Cruz State University. The multidisciplinary team of researchers is composed of ecologists, agronomists, sociologists, and economists, such as me. CPI’s contribution is to design financial incentives for restoration and to analyze rural producers’ choices and preferences.
“This involves constant care. Generally,
the challenge is greatest in the driest areas or
where pastures have prevailed for many years”
HOW IS THE PROJECT RECEIVED BY RURAL PRODUCERS?
DS: Very well. We have already been collecting field data for one year. We selected 3,000 producers at random from the region to participate in the project. Most of them agreed to talk to our team and we have already completed two rounds of interviews with each one of them. Our implementing partner’s team in the field has contributed to such a high participation rate. Sixteen young agronomists from the region, who recently graduated from the State University of Santa Cruz, were selected for the Floresta Viva Institute survey team.
WHAT ARE THE OBLIGATIONS OF RURAL PRODUCERS WHO WILL RECEIVE FINANCIAL INCENTIVES TO RESTORE VEGETATION IN THEIR PROPERTIES COMPLETE?
DS: They must set aside a half of a hectare of their property for the restoration, and look after this area for the restoration to occur. This includes removing species that are not woody, planting seedlings, and, in some cases, enclosing the area so that cattle do not disturb it. This involves constant care. Generally, the challenge is greatest in the driest areas or where pastures have prevailed for many years.
“The availability of labor workers
is an obstacle for restoration”
WHERE IN BAHIA IS THE WORKING GROUP BEING CONDUCTED AT THIS MOMENT? HOW FREQUENTLY HAVE YOU TRAVELED TO BAHIA?
DS: The survey was launched in 26 municipalities in the cacao region of Bahia. On average, I travel every three months to supervise the field work. I attend meetings with producers and communicate directly with the team to better understand the reality on the ground. Good communication with the team in Bahia is fundamental to the quality of the work, since I have to understand what is going on in the field and they have to understand the survey’s requirements.
PLEASE EXPLAIN IN GENERAL TERMS THE METHODOLOGY THAT IS BEING APPLIED FOR THE PROJECT.
DS: The methodology is the same as in a controlled clinical trial, known as Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). The idea is to test different types of incentives for restoration, as well as different restoration methods. To do so, the 3,000 producers are sorted to receive different types of incentives. As such, it is possible to isolate the effects each type of incentive has on the acceptance of the restoration program, as well as on its fulfillment.
“After the drought that hit the region last year
many farmers started to better understant the forest’s
importance in building resilience for their crops”
ARE THERE ANY PRELIMINARY RESULTS?
DS: We are still analyzing the data, but we already have a good description of the producers’ profiles. Some features are surprising. For example, the average age of respondents is 59 years – they are older than we might have expected.
We have also observed the availability of labor workers is an obstacle for restoration. Taking care of these areas and planting seedlings demand a lot of work. If you are a small producer living in a rural area, it is not always easy to find people to work on your property. We have also learned that after the drought that hit the region last year many farmers started to better understand the forest’s importance in building resilience for their crops. Let’s see how much this influences their attitudes towards restoration.