Barriers to participation and impacts of reforestation PES: evidence from a large scale program in Brazil

Last registered on June 06, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Barriers to participation and impacts of reforestation PES: evidence from a large scale program in Brazil
Initial registration date
May 27, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 06, 2023, 3:26 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

Oregon State University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
Amherst College
PI Affiliation
Conservation International
PI Affiliation
Conservation International

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Forest restoration is crucial for mitigating climate change, improving local environmental conditions, and supporting farmers’ livelihoods. Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) can directly incentivize rural property owners to join reforestation efforts, yet the evidence to guide their design is thin. PES systems can suffer from high adoption barriers, low additionality effects, and contract compliance challenges. In this pilot, we plan to evaluate the impact of different producer outreach strategies for enrollment in a Brazilian forest restoration PES program. Enrollment is a key bottleneck for scaling up forest restoration in this region. As part of this assessment, we also examine motivations for enrollment and participation costs participation during the first year of the program. This will also provide crucial information for designing a full-scale randomized evaluation of forest restoration.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Alix-Garcia, Jennifer et al. 2023. "Barriers to participation and impacts of reforestation PES: evidence from a large scale program in Brazil ." AEA RCT Registry. June 06.
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Experimental Details


Reflorestar is a Payments for Ecosystem Services run by the State of Espírito Santo, in Brazil. The program pays farmers inputs to reforest part of their property, technical assistance, and an amount proportional to the conserved land. The Reflorestar program recruits participants with a public call for proposals. Property owners generally work with a consultant who helps to navigate the necessary paperwork and develop the proposed restoration plan. The consultants then implement the program by giving technical assistance and monitoring the execution of the landowner’s obligations. We will collaborate with MV, a private consulting firm with the largest share of Reflorestar contracts. MV’s recruitment strategy is to approach local association leaders and organize an informational meeting about the program for their members. MV consultants give a presentation and collect contact information from interested farmers. MV then visits these owners to develop the application. Reflorestar pays MV to provide technical assistance and monitoring if the landowner gets the contract.

Conversations with MV have identified two important levers to increase enrollment. First, farmers are often discouraged from giving their contact information during the information meeting when they hear that there are required papers. The consultants believe that if they can have one-on-one conversations with producers to help them understand how MV can support their application, they could increase enrollment. Therefore, the first innovation is to defer the discussion of paperwork with farmers to the individual follow-up phase, in which they help farmers sign up for the program.

Second, they identify a bottleneck in the sign-up step and feel that a small and visible recognition of participation could help get farmers through the sign-up stage. They believe that promising farmers a certificate of participation in Reflorestar, which they can post publicly, may incentivize them to finish the sign-up process. This is our second intervention.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcomes in this study are:

1. The proportion of farmers who give their information to MV after the first informational meeting.
2. The proportion of farmers who ultimately sign contracts.

This project focuses on individual producer outcomes related to enrollment choice and participation costs. To obtain more information on the farmers’ motivations to enroll and the participation costs, we will conduct both focus groups and producer surveys, using as our sample frame those who gave information to MV consultants during the outreach phase. Surveys will include basic demographic information (assets index, farm size, household composition), and questions on the following topics:

1. Perceived benefits of the program
2. Barriers to enrollment
3. Intended alternative uses of land proposed for program enrollment
4. Costs of participation.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
This is a multi-arm, multi-stage, clustered randomized evaluation. In the first stage, we randomize at the level of the leaders of the producer associations who are the first point of contact for consultants. Leaders then invite association members. Leaders will be divided equally into 3 groups:

1. Whatsapp outreach: 1/3 of leaders will be sent a Whatsapp recruitment message with information about Reflorestar and an invitation to contact MV for more information.
2. Whatsapp plus invitation to a brief informational meeting: 1/3 will be sent a Whatsapp and also be invited to a brief informational meeting. Producers receive information about required documents in individual follow up meetings.
3. Whatsapp plus invitation to an extended informational meeting: 1/3 will be sent a Whatsapp and also be invited to an extended informational meeting. Producers receive information about required documents during the group meeting. This corresponds to the approach currently used by the consultants.

Within each cluster, interested producers will be randomized into the second intervention, which is the certificate of public recognition of their participation in Reflorestar. This will be offered to them during their in-person meeting with the MV consultant and given to them upon signing the contract.

Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization will occur through a computer in both stages.
Randomization Unit
The randomization of the first intervention will occur at the level of the association. The randomization of the second intervention will occur at the level of the producer.

Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Approximately 100, though this is a pilot study and so the final number may vary.

Sample size: planned number of observations
Approximately 1,500, though the final number depends upon the number of producers who participate in meetings.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1/3 of association groups in each of the three treatment arms of the first phase, and ½ of all producers with interest in subsequent producer-level randomization.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
This is a pilot study intended to inform power calculations for future interventions.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Oregon State University Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
N/A (not yet approved)


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials