The Socio Bosque Program
The Socio Bosque Program that began in Sept 2008 is an initiative of the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador (MAE) that offers economic incentives to owners of land with native forests to guarantee its protection over the medium to long-term; to date, conservation agreements have been signed for 630,000 hectares. The Program gives priority to areas with a rapid dynamic of land use change, areas that are critical for the maintenance of ecosystem processes that generate benefits for society and areas with a high incidence of poverty. As well, the MAE has recognized the need to align this initiative within the proposed framework for a future REDD strategy at the national level.
The three objectives of the Program are:
- Conserve native forests and other native ecosystems to protect their tremendous ecological, economic, cultural and spiritual values. The goal is to conserve 4 million ha of forest and other native ecosystems over the next seven years.
- Significantly reduce deforestation and associated GHG emissions.
- Improve the well-being of farmers, indigenous communities and other groups living in the country’s rural areas with the hope to benefit between 500,000 and one million people.
The SBP consists of direct payments for each hectare of native forest or other native vegetation conserved per year; payments are made annually for a period of 20 years once a conservation agreement is signed between the owner and the MAE. The economic incentive varies according to the size of the area that each owner voluntarily enters into the program, with a maximum payment of US$ 30 per hectare (MAE 2011). Payments for compliance with the SBP have been made strictly with funds from the GOE but additional financial resources will be needed to guarantee the sustainability of the Program into the future. These funds could come from the private sector, international cooperation or the implementation of REDD+ activities in some of the participating SBP areas, though it remains unclear how these latter areas could be eligible for such payments (Lawson et al. 2011).