The Political Life of Natural Infrastructure: Water Funds and Alternative Histories of Payments for Ecosystem Services in Valle del Cauca, Colombia

Sara H. Nelson, Leah L. Bremer, Kelly Meza Prado, Kate A. Brauman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article shows the two-way relation between global norms and local conditions as they shape Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) theory and practice, through a case study of a water fund in Valle del Cauca, Colombia, the heartland of the country's sugarcane industry. Drawing on interviews, survey data and historical research, the article argues that the water fund should be understood in the context of the history of infrastructure for the sugarcane industry in the region, and that this infrastructural perspective provides a more nuanced insight into the fund's political life than the traditional PES framing. Furthermore, the article shows how the norms embedded in this locally grown programme circulated through international networks to influence PES theory and design. This case offers one example of the need to attend to the multiple and geographically specific histories of actually existing PES in order to understand its diversity in the present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-50
Number of pages25
JournalDevelopment and Change
Volume51
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article shows the two‐way relation between global norms and local conditions as they shape Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) theory and practice, through a case study of a water fund in Valle del Cauca, Colombia, the heartland of the country's sugarcane industry. Drawing on interviews, survey data and historical research, the article argues that the water fund should be understood in the context of the history of infrastructure for the sugarcane industry in the region, and that this infrastructural perspective provides a more nuanced insight into the fund's political life than the traditional PES framing. Furthermore, the article shows how the norms embedded in this locally grown programme circulated through international networks to influence PES theory and design. This case offers one example of the need to attend to the multiple and geographically specific histories of actually existing PES in order to understand its diversity in the present. The authors would like to thank the research participants involved in Fondo Agua Por La Vida y La Sostenibilidad for sharing their time and experiences with us. We would also like to thank the special issue editors, Marta Echavarría and the three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive comments. This research was funded by the Natural Capital Project and the University of Minnesota Institute on Environment. Funding to Nelson was provided by a Thomas A. Shevlin Fellowship at the University of Minnesota. Funding to Brauman and Bremer was provided by NSF grant 1624329 through the Belmont Forum project ClimateWIse.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 International Institute of Social Studies

Copyright:
Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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