Social Role-Play Games Vs Individual Perceptions of Conservation and PES Agreements for Maintaining Rubber Agroforests in Jambi (Sumatra), Indonesia
Financial incentives can both support and undermine social norms compatible with environmental service enhancement. External co-investment—e.g., through incentives from programs to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) and eco-certification—needs to synergize with local efforts by understanding local dynamics and conditions for free and prior informed consent. We assessed the perceptions and behavior of rubber agroforest farmers under existing conservation agreements as a step toward institutionalized reward schemes for agro-biodiversity using questionnaires and role-playing games (RPG). To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to apply such a combination of methods to explore the perceptions of payments for environmental services (PES). Results revealed a strong conservation belief system and social norms in the research site, with indications that individual interest in converting old rubber agroforest to oil palm, with consequent private gain and loss of local social agro-biodiversity benefits, is suppressed in the social context of a role-playing game. In the game, all financial bids by external agents to secure an oil palm foothold in the village, were rejected despite indications of declining income in the village. Agents promoting an eco-certification scheme in the RPG had success and the responses obtained in the game can assist in the actual rollout of such a scheme without creating unrealistic expectations of its financial benefits. Co-investment schemes that require higher levels of trust and clarity of performance measures will have to address the potential discrepancy between individual preferences and community-level planning and decisions, while recognizing that social norms color the responses of individuals when presented with alternatives.