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Hungry Birds and Angry Farmers: Using Choice Experiments to Assess “Eco-compensation” for Coastal Wetlands Protection in China

Bennett, Michael T., Gong, Yazhen, Scarpa, Riccardo
Ecological economics 2018 v.154 pp. 71-87
birds, conservation areas, cost effectiveness, environmental management, farmers, farmers' attitudes, households, pesticides, rural communities, subsidies, vertebrate pests, wetlands, wintering grounds, China
The JYNNR – a Ramsar Site, Biosphere Reserve and important wintering ground for 15–18% of the world's Red Crowned Cranes – faces major pressure from regional development. This paper uses choice experiments to assess farmer preferences for an “eco-compensation” program targeting pesticide use by rural communities in and near the Jiangsu-Yancheng Coastal Wetlands Rare Birds National Nature Reserve (JYNNR). “Eco-compensation” is a China-specific term encompassing many incentive-based environmental management approaches. To identify options to reconcile rural welfare improvement with conservation, data was collected from 311 rural households in and near the JYNNR assessing perceptions of the JYNNR, wetland birds, use and impact of pesticides, and preferences for contracts to mitigate pesticide impacts. Results suggest that conflict with the JYNNR is growing, and that pesticide management could be an effective entry-point for engagement. The analysis finds several options for cost-effective contracts: granting rights to leave the program without penalty and increasing share of household land enrolled significantly reduce willingness-to-accept-payment (WTA), while longer contracts and larger reductions in pesticide use increase WTA, which interact meaningfully with farmer characteristics. Providing communities with training and technical support on proper pesticide use could, under specific contract structures, be sufficient to induce 100% enrollment without subsidies.