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Transaction costs of farmers’ participation in forest management: Policy implications of payments for environmental services schemes in Vietnam
Recent research on payments for environmental services (PES) has observed that high transaction costs (TCs) are incurred through the implementation of PES schemes and farmer participation. TCs incurred by households are considered to be an obstacle to the participation in and efficiency of PES policies. This study aims to understand transactions related to previous forest plantation programmes and to estimate the actual TCs incurred by farmers who participated in these programmes in a mountainous area of northwestern Vietnam. In addition, this study examines determinants of households’ TCs to test the hypothesis of whether the amount of TCs varies according to household characteristics. Results show that average TCs are not likely to be a constraint for participation since they are about 200,000 VND (USD 10) per household per contract, which is equivalent to one person’s average earnings for about two days of labour. However, TCs amount to more than one-third of the programmes’ benefits, which is relatively high compared to PES programmes in developed countries. This implies that rather than aiming to reduce TCs, an appropriate agenda for policy improvement is to balance the level of TCs with PES programme benefits to enhance the overall attractiveness of afforestation programmes for smallholder farmers. Regression analysis reveals that education, gender and perception towards PES programmes have significant effects on the magnitude of TCs. The analyses also points out the importance of local conditions on the level of TCs, with some unexpected results.