Payments for Ecosystem Services schemes, or PES, offer a useful approach to account for the largely unrecognized value of ecosystem services provided by the forestry sector. However, the actual impacts of PES schemes, both in effectively protecting the environmental quality of an ecosystem, such as the water filtration capacity of a forest, and on improving local livelihoods, often remain unknown. Policy evaluation in general, and for newly established policies in particular, plays a critical role in providing essential feedback about what is actually happening on the ground. Thus, for PES to generate outcomes that are effective, efficient and equitable, policy makers must develop a functional evaluation system. As PES schemes around the world face similar problems in monitoring and evaluation, we draw on the case of Vietnam—the first country in Asia to introduce a nationwide PES scheme—and analyze the effectiveness of the monitoring and evaluation activities of the Payment for Forest Environmental Services program (PFES). We also offer practical policy recommendations for future PFES implementation. We find that monitoring and evaluation of PFES in Vietnam is still in its infancy. Although there is a strong accounting of revenues generated from ecosystem services buyers, there is a discernible lack of ability to assess the quantity and quality of ecosystem services being enhanced by the program; fulfillment of contractual obligations; the appropriateness of financial flows; or socio-economic impacts of the program. We argue that a functioning PES evaluation system must include an accessible grievance mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability in the distribution of PES revenues from central to local levels.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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