Financial incentives often fail to reconcile agricultural productivity and pro-conservation behavior

Paying resource users to preserve features of their environment could in theory better align production and conservation goals. We show, however, that across a range of conservation dilemmas, they might not. We conduct a synthesis of dynamic games experiments built around collective action dilemmas in conservation, played across Europe, Africa, and Asia. We find, across this range of dilemmas, that while payments can encourage pro-conservation behavior, they often fail to capitalize on the potential for jointly improving productive and environmental outcomes, highlighting the more nuanced challenge of reconciling livelihoods with conservation goals. We further find production (yield) and the joint production-environment product (i.e., a measure of agricultural production multiplied by a measure of pro-conservation practice) are better preserved in groups that are more educated, more gender diverse and that better represent women. We discuss how the design of incentive programs can better align livelihood and environment goals.
© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Communications Earth & Environment, 2023, available online at: . Keywords: agriculture; developing world; environmental studies; forestry.
Bell, A.R., Rakotonarivo, O.S., Bhargava, A. et al. Financial incentives often fail to reconcile agricultural productivity and pro-conservation behavior. Commun Earth Environ 4, 27 (2023).