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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Types of collective action problems and farmers’ willingness to accept agri-environmental schemes in Switzerland

Villamayor-Tomas, Sergio; Sagebiel, Julian; Rommel, Jens; Olschewski, Roland


Over the last years, there has been an increasing interest in the intersection of collective action and payments for ecosystem services. This has been motivated, among other things, by the understanding that spatially coordinated conservation practices can be ecologically more effective. In this study, we propose understanding collective action in the PES context as shaped by three collective action problems: the public good provision problem (i.e., the decision by landholders of whether to participate in a PES program); the coordinated implementation problem (i.e., the decision of landholders who participate in the PES to implement conservation measures in a coordinated fashion); and the externality internalization problem (i.e., the internalization of externalities that PES participants create on neighboring landholders and/or vice-versa). We then explore the extent to which perceptions about those three problems affect participation in PES. For this purpose, we carry out a choice experiment among farmers in the Swiss cantons of Zurich and Aargau. A majority of farmers have pessimistic expectations about the possibility of collective action regardless of whether that serves the provision of ecosystem services (pubic good provision), the coordinated implementation of AES or the internalization of potential externalities. Those with optimistic expectations about the first two problems are more likely to participate in PES. Finally, we find that expectations with regard to the public good provision and coordinated implementation problems interact, i.e., farmers who are optimistic about the willingness of other farmers to participate in PES are also more willing to coordinate in the implementation, and the other way around.


Public goods; spatial coordination; externalities; discrete choice experiment; European Union common agricultural policy; payments for ecoystem services

Published in

Ecosystem Services
2021, Volume: 50, article number: 101304

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

      Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

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