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Category: Water Quality & Mining

Leaders’ distributional & efficiency effects in collective responses to policy: Lab-in-field experiments with small-scale gold miners in Colombia

Luz A. Rodriguez, Maria Alejandra Velez, Alexander Pfaff
World Development 147 (2021) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2021.105648

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Globally, small-scale gold mining (SSGM) is an important economic option for many rural poor. It involves local uses of shared resources, like common-pool contexts for which self-governance has avoided ‘tragedies of the commons’. Yet even ideal local governance of SSGM is not societally efficient given non-local damages that suggest external interventions for desired shifts. Because transactions costs are high for rewarding reductions in damages on remote mining frontiers, states could gain if rewards based on low-cost, group compliance measures could successfully induce cooperation in response to policy. However, as group-level rewards invite free-riding, such success requires local collective action. Since that guarantees neither efficient coordination nor equitable distributions of net benefits from compliance, we consider the impacts of emergent leaders on local responses to external policy. We employ framed lab experiments with 200 small-scale gold miners in Colombia’s Pacific to explore leaders’ impacts on equity and efficiency in collective responses to external incentives. Allowing communication before individual choice, which raises efficiency but not always equity, we can identify emergent leaders of groups’ communications. Leaders raise compliance and affect how its costs are distributed, suggesting access to leadership roles matters.

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Graduated stringency within collective incentives for group environmental compliance: Building coordination in field-lab experiments with artisanal gold miners in Colombia

Luz A. Rodriguez, Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 98 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2019.102276

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Small-scale gold mining is important to rural livelihoods in the developing world but also a source of environmental externalities. Incentives for individual producers are the classic policy response for a socially efficient balance between livelihoods and the environment. Yet monitoring individual miners is ineffective, or it is very costly, especially on frontiers with scattered small-scale miners. We ask whether monitoring at a group level effectively incentivizes cleaner artisanal mining by combining lower-cost external monitoring with local collective action.We employ a mining-framed, threshold-public-goods experiment in Colombia’s Pacific region, with 640 participants from frontier mining communities. To study compliance with collective environmental targets, we vary the target stringency, including to compare increases over time in the stringency versus decreases. We find that collective incentives can induce efficient equilibria, with group compliance — and even inefficient overcompliance — despite the existence of equilibria with zero contributions. Yet, for demanding targets in which the reward for compliance barely outweighs the cost, compliance can collapse. Those outcomes improve with past successes for easier targets, however, so our results suggest gain from building coordination via graduated stringency.

 

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Collective Local Payments for Ecosystem Services: new local PES between groups, sanctions, and prior watershed trust in Mexico

Alexander Pfaff, Luz Angela Rodriguez, Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza
Water Resources and Economics 28 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wre.2019.01.002

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Payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs are now high in number, if not always in impact. When groups of users pay groups of service providers, establishing PES involves collective action. We study the creation of collective PES institutions, and their continuation, as group coordination. We use framed lab-in-field experiments with hydroservices users and providers within watersheds participating in Mexico’s Matching Funds program in Veracruz, Yucatan and Quintana Roo states. We explore the coordination of contributions between downstream users and upstream providers, plus effects of different types of sanctions that can affect expectations for both users and providers. Both information alone and sanctions raise contributions overall, although outcomes varied by site in line with our rankings of ‘watershed trust’. For instance, monetary sanctions raise contributions in the watershed we ranked high in trust, yet initially lowered them for the lowest-trust watershed. This suggests that upstream-downstream social capital will be central to new collective local PES, while our overall trends suggest social capital can be raised by successful coordination over time.

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Contracts versus Trust for Transfers of Nature’s Services: equity and efficiency in resource allocation and environmental provision

Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez, Amar Hamoudi, Renzo Taddei, Kenneth Broad
Water Resources & Economics 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wre.2018.04.001

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Managing natural-resource allocation and environmental externalities is a challenge. Institutional designs are central when improving water quality for downstream users, for instance, and when reallocating water quantities including for climate adaptation. Views differ on which institutions are best: states; markets; or informal institutions. For transfers of ecosystem services, we compare informal trust-based institutions to enforced contracts, both being institutional types we observe commonly in the field. The trust-based institutions lack binding promises, thus ecosystem-services suppliers are unsure about the compensation they will receive for transferring services to users. We employ decision experiments given the shortcomings of the alternative methods for empirical study of institutions, as well as the limits on theoretical prediction about behaviors under trust. In our bargaining game that decouples equity and efficiency, we find that enforced contracts increased efficiency as well as all measures of equity. This informs the design of institutions to manage transfers of ecosystem services, as equity in surplus sharing is important in of itself and in permitting efficient allocation.

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Increasing the Impact of Collective Incentives in Payments for Ecosystem Services

David A. Kaczan, Alexander Pfaff, Luz A. Rodriguez, Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2017.06.007

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Collective payments for ecosystem services (PES )programs make payments to groups, conditional on specified aggregate land-management outcomes.Such collective contracting may be well suited to settings with communal land tenure or decision-making. Given that collective contracting does not require costly individual-level information on outcomes, it may also facilitate conditioning on additionality (i.e., conditioning payments upon clearly improved outcomes relative to baseline). Yet collective contracting often suffers from free-riding, which undermines group outcomes and may be exacerbated or ameliorated by PES designs. We study impacts of conditioning on additionality within a number of collective PES
designs. We use a framed field-laboratory experiment with participants from a new PES program in Mexico. Because social interactions are critical within collective processes, we assess the impacts from conditioning on additionality given: (1) group participation in contract design, and (2) a group coordination mechanism. Conditioning on above-baseline outcomes raised contributions, particularly among initially lower contributors. Group participation in contract design increased impact, as did the coordination mechanism.

 

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Reduction in exposure to arsenic from drinking well-water in Bangladesh limited by insufficient testing and awareness

Alexander Pfaff, Amy Schoenfeld, Kazi Matin Ahmed, Alexander van Geen
Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development 07.2 doi: 10.2166/washdev.2017.136

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This study considers potential policy responses to the still very high levels of exposure to arsenic (As) caused by drinking water from shallow tubewells in rural Bangladesh. It examines a survey of 4,109 households in 76 villages of Araihazar upazila conducted two years after a national testing campaign swept through the area. The area is adjacent to the region where a long-term study was initiated in 2000 and where households are periodically reminded of health risks associated with well-water elevated in As. Results confirm that testing spurs switching away from unsafe wells, although the 27% fraction who switched was only about half of that in the long-term study area. By village, the fraction of households that switched varied with the availability of safe wells and the distance from the long-term study area. Lacking follow-up testing, two years only after the campaign 21% of households did not know the status of their well and 21% of households with an unsafe well that switched did so to an untested well. Well testing is again urgently needed in Bangladesh and should be paired with better ways to raise awareness and the installation of additional deep community wells.

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