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IDEA Program
Email: CATIE 7170, Turrialba 30501, Cartago, Costa Rica
Telephone: (+506) 2528-2624
Fax: (+506) 2558-2625
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Dr. Francisco Alpízar
Líder e Investigador

Dr. Juan Robalino
Dr. Álvaro Umaña
Dr. Isabel Gutiérrez
Dr. Róger Madrigal
Dr. Eliecer Vargas
Dr. Nicole Sibelet
Dr. Paul Ferraro
Dr. Pablo Imbach
Dr. Milagro Saborío
Dr. Anna Nordén
Dr. Leida Mercado
MSc. Cornelis Prins
MSc. María A. Naranjo
MALD. Carlos Muñoz
MA. Felicia Ramírez
MSc. Eugenia León
BSc. Catalina Sandoval
BSc. José F. Jiménez
BSc. Tabaré Capitán

Support personnel

Lizette Delgado
Administration and Executive Support

Andrea Castro
Executive Assistant

Alberto Vargas
Administration and Finance
Environmental economics

At CATIE we support any initiative that alleviates poverty and empowers sustainable development through increased use of environmental economics in policymaking processes.

With this firm objective CATIE sets the goal to contribute to the design and evaluation of public policies and local institutional agreements. We do this by understanding the causes and consequences of human decisions as key inputs in the formulation of policies and by increasing the interaction between academia and decision makers in Central America.

All this work is channeled through the Research Program on Development, Economy and Environment (IDEA). The program is designed with the clear purpose of providing proactive, science-based advice on the policy options available and a critical analysis of current initiatives affecting environmental protection, sustainable management of natural resources and poverty alleviation.

The program is based on the construction of a research agenda that prioritizes problems and policy processes in close interaction with stakeholders at all levels.

The main areas of work and expertise for this program are:

  • Socioeconomic analysis of conservation policies
  • Socioeconomic dimensions of climate change
  • Management and valuation of ecosystem goods and services
Research areas

The main activity of CATIE’s IDEA program is international research collaboration on issues related to poverty and the environment.

Environmental economists identify underlying problems, assess their impacts and propose efficient solutions by using policy analysis tools, techniques for non-market valuation, and experimental and behavioral economics.

This is done through the following key thematic areas of research:

1. Socioeconomic analysis of conservation policies

  • Evaluation of conservation policies
  • Funding of protected areas
  • Pro-social behavior around conservation initiatives

In this thematic area efforts have focused on assessing the role of protected areas in reducing deforestation. Given the relevance of the problems of income and poverty in the region, our research examines how the implementation of conservation policies impacts the local welfare. Furthermore we address issues related to how local communities can generate income from conservation, considering tourism activities and defining the appropriate entrance fees for protected areas.

2. Socio-economic dimensions of climate change
  • Strategies and policies for adaptation
  • Costing and evaluation of mitigation options
  • Impact on rural livelihoods
  • Risk and changes in agricultural productivity and socioeconomic resilience

With respect to adaptation, we focus on public policy, local institutions and the behavior of farmers and marginalized households. As for mitigation, the focus is on the economic and social costs of implementing the Reduction of Emissions due to Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in developing countries. We are particularly interested in assessing the impact on the most vulnerable groups of society.

3. Management and valuation of environmental goods and services

Community management of common resources

  • Institutions and public policies for the water supply and sanitation
  • Economic evaluation of public policies for the provision of ecosystem services
  • Distributive and gender equity

We are interested in how communities make decisions on the use and management of common resources such as water, forests and coastal resources. With regard to water, we focus on participatory approaches to water management, including the safety of the water supply and irrigation. We also focus on the analysis and development of public policies for water and management wastewater, as well the design, implementation and evaluation of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs, particularly those associated with small watersheds. We are also interested in the role of government policies, local communities in coastal development, income equality, and gender in the management of environmental goods and services.

IDEA: Capacity building and training

Academic training is essential for the development of local capacity in environmental economics. The Program for Investigation on Development, Economy and Environment (IDEA) is supported by CATIE’s Master’s program in environmental socioeconomics. This Master’s program offers a unique opportunity for training professionals in an intercultural multidisciplinary environment of high quality academic.

Thanks to a team of highly qualified professors and researchers, students undergo a training and skill-strengthening process in addressing the most relevant environmental problems in Latin America and the Caribbean from a perspective that combines economic and social dimensions.

Every year we give the course on Economic Foundations for the Management and Assessment of Environmental Services that is very well received by professional staff working in the field throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

More than 250 senior professionals from Latin America and the Caribbean have successfully participated in this course, which gives special emphasis to payment for environmental services (PES) and the socioeconomic dimension of climate change adaptation. With this course we want to share the learning and implementation methodologies that CATIE has achieved in several interaction experiences with international organizations, ministries, local governments, producer groups, academics, students and others interested in these issues.

One of the major contributions we make to the development of local capacity in environmental economics and natural resource economics is through our Latin American and Caribbean Environmental Economics Program (LACEEP - LACEEP offers scholarships and advanced training courses for students from the region. In addition, scholarship recipients benefit from the guidance given throughout the process of their research.

Our researchers work with other national universities providing undergraduate and graduate courses on issues related to environmental economics.

Projects from 2012, 2013 and other recent projects

2012 Projects

“Evaluation of the impact of the payments for ecosystem services program on welfare in Costa Rica.”

This project had funding from the Tinker Foundation and EfD. It aimed to estimate the effect of the PES program on socioeconomic outcomes in Costa Rica. The ultimate objective of the research project is to provide sound scientific evidence to inform decision-makers about what works and what does not in the current design of the program, and to make recommendations about how to improve it to obtain better social outcomes.

“Performance-based payments for turtle protection: understanding the conditions for success.”

This project was funded by EfD to understand how communities make decisions and design institutions for the use and management of common resources, such as coastal resources. This project contributes to the understanding and identification of the ways in which poor communities could participate in the conservation of a natural resource that is inherent to their subsistence. There is an urgent need to design and implement policies to protect sea turtles, a seriously threatened faunal resource that is present in all the underdeveloped countries and in coastal areas.

“Understanding the balance between policies for planning marine conservation areas and artisanal fishing in key coastal areas of Costa Rica. EfD funds.”

This project aims to identify local capabilities, assets and activities that characterize the subsistence livelihoods of small-scale fishers in Costa Rica. The project will promote sustainable resource management, focusing on the subsistence livelihoods of small farmers, who are generally poor. The study will thereby integrate environmental economics capacity into policymaking processes.

In addition to the projects mentioned above, the IDEA program is working on two research projects in South Africa, Tanzania and Ethiopia. These are:

“Marine Protected Areas and the behavior of small-scale fishers: a comparative analysis of South Africa, Tanzania and Costa Rica. EfD funds.” Emphasizes policy interactions that occur within each country to assist in identifying policy options and their design. It illustrates the importance of international collaboration to share knowledge on the management of common assets such as marine resources.

“Climate change and the role of adaptation to risk in South Africa and Costa Rica (with EfD funds).” Its objective is to analyze the behavioral dimension of climate change and how risk preferences are related.

Proyects 2013

In 2013 there are two new research projects that focus on climate change: “Adaptation of households to seasonal drought in rural potable water systems” and “Migration as a strategy for adaptation: Analysis of the effects of extreme weather events on local migration in Guatemala.”

Climate change is beginning to be perceived by decision makers as a real threat to human welfare in Central America, where increased drought is expected in drier areas with increased precipitation in wetter areas.

Two opposite effects arising from extreme events are desertification on the one hand and an increased risk of floods and landslides on the other. Firstly, water resources are a key input into the design of effective policies to minimize expected negative impacts, especially for the most vulnerable groups of society.

The objective of these projects is to reduce vulnerability to climate change and promote the development of strategies for adaptation to ensure better welfare for the poorest inhabitants in rural areas.

Other projects

“Adaptation to climate change based on ecosystem management for small subsistence farmers and coffee growers in Central America, CASCADA.”

This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (ICI). The German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.

"Strengthening research capacity in environmental economics for adaptation to climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Funded with support from the IDRC.