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Dr. Nigel Asquith
Sustainability Science Program
Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: 502 Rubenstein Building
Group affiliation: Research Fellow and Bullard Fellow
Nigel Asquith is a joint Research Fellow in the Sustainability Science and Charles Bullard Fellowship Programs. He is also the Director of Strategy and Policy at the Santa Cruz, Bolivia-based Fundación Natura Bolivia, where his team has set up 20 municipal payments for environmental services (PES) water funds, which annually support 1,100 families with $160,000 worth of alternative development projects, thus helping them to conserve 35,000 hectares of biodiverse tropical forests. These "reciprocal watershed agreements" (RWA) have been replicated and scaled up by other organizations across the Andes. Nigel’s technical expertise is in plant-animal relations in neotropical forests, ecosystem service valuation, policy analysis, and the impacts of the oil and gas sector on biodiversity. Nigel’s research at Harvard focuses on assessing the efficiency of PES and RWA programs in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia. Nigel is contributing to collaborative work with the Initiative on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development led by William Clark. He has also worked at the Smithsonian Institution, the Center for International Forestry Research, Conservation International, and the World Bank, while USAID, the European Commission and the MacArthur Foundation currently fund his work. Nigel was a Giorgio Ruffolo Research Fellow (2009). He received his PhD in Zoology and a masters in Policy from Duke University (1999) and a BA from Oxford University (1989). His faculty host is William Clark.
Can payments for environment services support sustainable forest management: Lessons from a series of randomized control trial evaluations
As a type of incentive based forest management, Reciprocal Watershed Agreements (RWA) are based on the twin axioms that 1) protecting upstream forests will help maintain water supplies in quantity and quality, and 2) downstream water users need to contribute to such forest protection. Unlike the conceptually similar but classical economics based payments for environmental services (PES), the key attributes of RWA are behavioral economic theory, the precautionary principle, and local institution building and alignment. Instead of investing research funds a priori to architect the economic and biophysical details of a RWA scheme, the research focus is on experimental analyses, including Randomized Control Trials (RCT) undertaken after RWA implementation in order to learn policy lessons and improve and refine the model. This research project will analyze data being collected in a randomized control trial of 65 small-scale RWAs in Bolivia, which will evaluate how well RWA contribute to forest management and conservation. The research will also assess what factors best characterize successful payments for environmental services and RWA schemes, how these characteristics can be incorporated into small-scale and national forest conservation programs, and how the characteristics of RWA and PES can best be combined.