This research was conducted in the Central Amazon and the Chocó-Darién of Ecuador. It includes twelve sites, six of them with the presence of a conservation strategy (four with Socio Bosque program in the Central Amazon and two with protected areas in the Chocó-Darién) and six without any formal conservation strategy.
The results showed that in the Central Amazon, households living close to Socio Bosque program have lower odds to deforest, which can be attributed to the higher awareness that the program has created towards conservation. In the Chocó-Darién, households living close to protected areas are exerting high pressures of remnant forests, showing that additional strategies are needed to reduce deforestation in the buffer zones, especially in contexts with high deforestation pressures. Lessons from Socio Bosque and protected areas can help to design or improve conservation strategies aligned to the current social demands.
Land titling is still an important issue in the lowland rainforest frontiers, especially in the Chocó-Darién, where land titling needs to be facilitated in order to avoid the disappearance of the last remnants of this unique ecoregion in the Ecuadorian side. Governmental grants aimed to alleviate poverty show good signs of helping to reduce deforestation; however, more research is still needed on this topic.
Finally, when farmers depend more on agricultural production (Central Amazon), high timber volume available can generate an additional incentive for forest clearing since timber commercialization can finance agricultural expansion. When timber markets dominate the economy (Chocó-Darién), continuous timber harvesting leads to forest clearing once valuable timber species are depleted; however, this effect is not captured in cross-sectional studies.
Having household-level information on the factors that influence deforestation decisions, is critical for adequate policy-making regarding the management of forest resources in tropical countries such as Ecuador. Given that farm households live in contexts of incomplete and imperfect markets, their land-use decisions are shaped by factors that go beyond the profit-maximization problem. Actions pursuing forest conservation and change of human behavior, need also to account for household-specific characteristics and exogenous elements such as the quality of natural resources and the institutional environment.