Using field experiments to design effective climate and forest policies in developing countries

Project facts

Project promoter
Autonomous University of Barcelona
Project Number:
Target groups
Researchers or scientists
Initial project cost:
Final project cost:
From EEA Grants:
€ 26,050
The project is carried out in:


The results of the project will provide an ex ante evaluation of different forest resources management and deforestation and forest degradation policy measures. The main objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of the different policy measures to achieve sustainable resource management. The partnership will define suggestions for improvements of natural resource management in Tanzania, Indonesia and Bolivia designing different natural resource management policies. The researcher of the donor partner, Arild Angelsen, is a Professor of economics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB). She has, over the past two decades, done extensive research and published on causes of tropical deforestation, and its interaction with poverty, tenure and government policies. The researcher of the project promoter, Victoria Reyes-García is a social anthropologist and has worked with traditional knowledge systems and natural resources management in tropical forests. This collaboration will ensure that the research combine formal economic models and anthropological insights on local perceptions and behaviour in design and analysis of experiments.

Summary of project results

Experiments in economics and social sciences have become a major tool of investigating human behaviour and interventions to modify behaviour so to achieve better social and environmental outcomes. While most experiments are undertaken in university labs in developed countries with students as the participants, framed field experiments (FFE) takes the lab to the field. FFEs are framed to represent real-world decision-making situation, with actual resource users, in a natural setting, and with real payments to make participants reveal their true preferences. Games on natural resources management (NRM) typically introduce an incentive structure that gives trade-offs between individually and collectively optimal behaviour. The activities under this project fall into three areas: (I) Field experiments: design, implantation, analysis and write up: Field experiments in Tanzania, Brazil, Bolivia and Indonesia. (II) synthesis work: a) Literature review; b) Special section of Ecological Economics on crowding out and PES, c) REDD+ and experimental evidence (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) (a draft paper is planned early 2016), and (III), COFFEE network. A major activity of the project was a workshop the creation of an informal network among experimental and development researcher, dubbed COFFEE (COmparative Framed Field Experiments on the Environment), held in Barcelona 18-20 May 2015, supported by additional funding from the NILS Mobility programme and from an ERC Starting Grant (FP7-261971-LEK) to Reyes-García. COFFEE participants included 19 key researchers in economics, anthropology, and development studies mostly, but not only, from Europe. Participants presented case studies, and spent considerable time on identifying lessons learned for environmental/ conservation/climate policies, methodological lessons and research gaps. They discussed the possibilities and requirements for a cooperative project, and made plan for next steps. Partners believe that the research promoted is an innovative one, which will help to better understand resource users’ behaviour and the effectiveness of possible policy formation. Participation of involved researchers in international networks provides a bridge for bringing results to a larger audience of policy makers and practitioners. This should ultimately contribute to a better policy design and implementation that will help manage natural resources in poor countries more sustainably.

Summary of bilateral results

The stay of Angelsen at UAB formed a platform for future collaboration between the three main researches, and possibly other at the two institutions. This is exemplified by the joint papers in preparation. Collaboration on future field experiments will also continue. The possibility for a large comparative research project (COFFEE) will be explored if the relevant funding opportunities arise. A separate EU (Horizon 2020) has been discussed, but the profile of the current idea is probably too narrow for a EU application. Applications to national research councils are an option. The workshop and subsequent discussions has formed new connections and networks. On concrete example is that one of the co-organisers (E. Corbera) and two participants (M.A. Vélez and A. Pfaff) have started a new research project involving a PhD candidate at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (where Corbera is based). The workshop was instrumental to define the scope of the project, which will involve a series of FFE in Colombia and Mexico. Another output of Angelsen’s stay at ICTA is his interactions with young researchers (PhD Students). Those interactions have already materialized in Angelsen’s participation in 2 PhD committees: - Jovanja Spirik: Uncovering the REDD+ process in Mexico: Actors, discourses and benefit-sharing. Expected date of defense, January 2016 - Illiana Monterroso: REDD+ and land tenure in Perú. Expected date of defense, January 2016 Angelsen is also expected to participate in the PhD committee of Tezza Napitupulu “Market influence on hunter-gatherer’s traditional management of common pool resources in East Kalimantan, Indonesia”, once she has finalized her thesis. The immediate plans (first year 2015-2016) for sustaining the collaboration: 1. Work on 3-4 co-authored papers, as outlined above. 2. Angelsen will be an external member of the PhD Committee of two ICTA, UAB student, who is set to defend in January 2016 (see above) 3. Organizing a session, based on the COFFEE network, at the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE), 22-25 June 2016 in Zurich. 4. A new experiment by a PhD student of Arild Angelsen (Amare Teklay) is planned in Ethiopia, starting in January 2016. This will have a similar structure as earlier common pool resources game (forest use and management) played in Tanzania, but will focus on another element, namely the role of benchmarks (reference levels) for payments to participants.