in: Capitalism Nature Socialism 25 (3), 84-102
Payment for Environmental Services (PES) schemes receive much policy attention as a new approach to protect ecosystems and foster livelihood development. In the Andean region, policy makers and development institutes have embraced this approach of applying market mechanisms to regulate water allocation and territorial conservation. By critically analyzing PES, this paper argues that such schemes threaten to break down local water control through undermining community institutions and collective action. The introduction of ‘market rationality’ produces replacement of context- and history-rooted ‘water territories’ by commoditizing and individualizing the complex array of mutual dependence relations and Andean water management arrangements. Policy makers and development institutes, rather than relying on expert-knowledge, objectified values and blueprint approaches, need to profoundly consider place-based history and diversity, and local-global power relations.