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Motivations and incentives for pro-environmental behaviour: the case of silvopasture adoption in the tropical forest frontier



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Zabala, Aiora 


On the frontier of biodiversity-rich tropical forests, how land is used has an important role in buffering the primary ecosystem. Unsustainable small-scale cattle farming endangers soil quality and degrades the landscape. Silvopasture is a type of agroforestry that provides both ecological and livelihood benefits. A number of projects have been implemented across the tropics to encourage silvopasture adoption, with varying success. This dissertation questions the reasons for variable outcomes among participants within these projects: what motivates smallholders to adopt innovative land-use practices, and what form of incentives may help to overcome obstacles and catalyse adoption. This dissertation contributes to the ongoing debate on payments for ecosystem services, specifically about their suitability and effectiveness. To understand what influences decisions to adopt sustainable land-use practices, I review systematically and quantitatively the literature on adoption predictors, and I empirically analyse participation and short-term adoption in a pilot project for planting fodder trees in the border of a protected forest in Chiapas, Mexico, using primary and secondary data. I focus on subjective perspectives and livelihood strategies of actual and potential participants as explanatory variables, which have received unduly scarce attention in past studies. This lack of attention is partially caused by the difficulties of operationalising internal variables. I address this challenge by developing an analytical approach that increases the precision of the resulting perspectives in Q methodology. I cluster livelihood strategies and model adoption. This in-depth case-study suggests the type of incentives that are adequate to encourage adoption of sustainable land-use practices. Results indicate that payments may not be the best incentive for pioneer adopters, and that the adoption process is composed of separate individual steps, which are influenced distinctly by identifiable predictors, such as livelihood diversity. Uncovering this heterogeneity of motivations towards adoption provides useful knowledge for designing more effective external policy interventions.





environmental policy, Research Subject Categories::FORESTRY, AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES and LANDSCAPE PLANNING, Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES, payments for ecosystem services, ecological economics, environmental economics, agroforestry, silvopasture, Mexico, Chiapas, Sierra Madre, adoption, diffusion, pro-environmental behaviour, incentives, Q methodology, bootstrapping, livelihood strategies, forest conservation, tropical forest, sustainable cattle-farming, land-use change


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
This work was supported by the Department of Research of the Basque Government (Full PhD scholarship, AK-2009), and by fieldwork grants from the Mexican Government, via El Colegio de la Frontera Sur.