13 February 2014
Purity Irungu and the other womenfolk of Kamangura village used to trek the 10km to Gathiuru forest in central Kenya each day to gather wood for cooking.
"I would need a load of firewood large enough to fill a pick-up truck every month," explained the 38-year-old mother of three. "But the firewood was not enough, so we would cut down trees."
Nowadays, thanks to an energy-saving cookstove, Irungu walks to the forest far less often to fetch wood. She is part of an innovative scheme, known as "Payments for Ecosystem Services" (PES), which rewards local people for protecting natural resources.
According to Tony Simons, director general of the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), PES works in three main ways. Communities can be paid to stop activities that harm ecosystems, or they can be paid to do something new that supports ecosystems. The third option is for communities to co-invest in an activity that has good returns for the ecosystem, such as energy-efficient cookstoves.
"The activities must trigger transformation and make sense to the farmer, the village head or even the forest dweller," Simons said. "PES can either be in (the form of) cash, or by offering incentives and skills transfer."