Gert Van Hecken

Assistant Professor

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About Gert Van Hecken

Short Bio

I am working as an assistant professor in International Cooperation and Development at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp, Belgium. I hold a PhD in Development Studies (University of Antwerp), an Advanced Master in Environmental Sciences (University of Antwerp) and a Master in Business Engineering (University of Antwerp).

During the past ten to fifteen years I have spent most of my time in Nicaragua, working as a (post)doctoral researcher on social-environmental change and rural development funded by the FWO (Flemish Scientific Research Foundation), and previously as the country representative for the Belgian development NGO Broederlijk Delen. During these years I have worked closely with local (civil) organisations, such as the research and development institute Nitlapan-UCA, various farmer organisations, and the environmental NGO Fundación del Río, as well as with several governmental organisations (e.g. Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA)), and academic institutions (e.g. Universidad Centroamericana (UCA)).

Currently, I am also a Board Member of Oxfam Belgium, and part of the Advisory Commission of the Belgian development NGO Broederlijk Delen.


Research interests

My main research interests lie in the global and local nexus between the environment and 'development' (processes of social change), and more specifically in the socio-political dynamics triggered by (international) conditional climate change/development finance instruments, such as carbon and biodiversity markets, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), and green microfinance. Empirically, most of my research has been focussed on Central- and South America, using multi-disciplinary and mixed methods approaches. Theoretically, my research mainly builds on insights from political ecology, ecological economics, and critical geography.

Here you can find an overview of the research projects I am currently involved in.



At the IOB, I am teaching courses on Qualitative Development Monitoring & Evaluation, on Sustainable Development, Climate Finance and the Greening of Aid, and on the Global Environment-Development nexus in the Advanced Master of Development Evaluation and Management and the Advanced Master of Globalization and Development. I am also the academic coordinator of the yearly Debating Development series organized at our University .

At the Faculty of Biology and in cooperation with the Institute of Environment & Sustainable Development I am teaching a course on Sustainable Development.

I am also involved as a guest lecturer on environmental governance in the Master of Territorial Development at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), Nicaragua.


Supervision of PhD students

I am currently supervising several PhD students working on:


Key publications

I have published several book chapters, policy briefs, and research articles in academic journals such as Environmental Science & Policy, Ecological Economics, Development & Change, Geoforum, Conservation Letters, Progress in Human Geography, Environment and Development Economics, and Enterprise Development and Microfinance (see also my full publication profile on University of AntwerpResearchGate and GoogleScholar). A copy of my doctoral dissertation can be downloaded here.

My key publications in academic journals include:

Kolinjivadi, V., G. Van Hecken, D. Vela Almeida, J. Dupras, N. Kosoy (2019) Neoliberal performatives and the 'making' of Payments for Ecosystem Services. Progress in Human Geography 43(1): 3–25.

Van Hecken, G., P. Merlet, M. Lindtner and J. Bastiaensen (2019) Can financial incentives change farmers' motivations? An agrarian system approach to development pathways at the Nicaraguan agricultural frontier. Ecological Economics 156: 519-529.

Merlet, P., G. Van Hecken and R. Rodriguez-Fabilena (2018) Playing before paying? A PES simulation game for assessing power inequalities and motivations in the governance of Ecosystem Services. Ecosystem Services 34: 218-227.

Van Hecken, G., Kolinjivadi, V., Windey, C., McElwee, P., Shapiro-Garza, E., Huybrechs, F., Bastiaensen, J. (2018) Silencing Agency in Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) by Essentializing a Neoliberal ‘Monster’ Into Being: A Response to Fletcher & Büscher's ‘PES Conceit’. Ecological Economics 144: 314-318.

Pasgaard, M., G. Van Hecken, A. Ehammer, N. Strange (2017) Unfolding scientific expertise and security in the changing governance of Ecosystem Services. Geoforum 84: 354-367.

Kolinjivadi, V., G. Van Hecken, J.C. Rodríguez de Francisco, J. Pelenc and N. Kosoy (2017) As a lock to a key? Why science is more than just an instrument to pay for nature's services. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 26–27: 1–6.

Van Hecken, G., J. Bastiaensen and C. Windey (2015) Towards a power-sensitive and socially-informed analysis of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES): Addressing the gaps in the current debate. Ecological Economics 120: 117-125.

Van Hecken, G., J. Bastiaensen and F. Huybrechs (2015) What’s in a name? Epistemic perspectives and payments for ecosystem services policies in Nicaragua, Geoforum 63: 55-66.

Bastiaensen, J., F. Huybrechs, D. Forcella and G. Van Hecken (2015) Microfinance Plus for Ecosystem Services: a Territorial Perspective on Proyecto CAMBio in Nicaragua. Enterprise Development and Microfinance 26(3): 292-306.

Van Hecken, G. and K. Baker (2015) Crossfire:Are we using Payments for Ecosystem Services to transfer our responsibility for over-consuming natural resources onto poor farmers in the global South?" Enterprise Development and Microfinance 26(3): 215-221.

Buytaert, W., Z. Zulkafli, S. Grainger, L. Acosta, T.C. Alemie, J. Bastiaensen, B. De Bièvre, J. Bhusal, J. Clark, A. Dewulf, M. Foggin, D.M. Hannah, C. Hergarten, A. Isaeva, T. Karpouzoglou, B. Pandeya, D. Paudel, K. Sharma, T.S. Steenhuis, S. Tilahun, G. Van Hecken and M. Zhumanova (2014) Citizen science in hydrology and water resources: opportunities for knowledge generation, ecosystem service management, and sustainable development. Frontiers in Earth Science 2(26): 1-21.

Muradian, R., M. Arsel, L. Pellegrini, F. Adaman, B. Aguilar, B. Agarwal, E. Corbera, D. Ezzine de Blas, J. Farley, G. Froger, E. Garcia-Frapolli, E. Gómez-Baggethun; J. Gowdy, N. Kosoy, J.F. Le Coq, P. Leroy, P. May, P. Méral, P. Mibielli, R. Norgaard, B. Ozkaynak, U. Pascual, W. Pengue, M. Perez, D. Pesche, R. Pirard, J. Ramos-Martin, L. Rival, F. Saenz, G. Van Hecken, A. Vatn, B. Vira and K. Urama (2013) Payments for Ecosystem Services and the fatal attraction of win-win solutions, Conservation Letters 6(4): 274-279.

Van Hecken, G., J. Bastiaensen and W.F. Vásquez (2012) The Viability of Local Payments for Watershed Services: Empirical Evidence from Matiguás, Nicaragua, Ecological Economics 74: 169-176.

Vásquez, W.F., D. Franceschi and G. Van Hecken (2012) Household Preferences for Municipal Water Services in Nicaragua. Environment and Development Economics 17(1): 105-126.

Van Hecken, G. and J. Bastiaensen (2010) Payments for Ecosystem Services: Justified or Not? A Political View, Environmental Science & Policy 13(8): 785-792.

Van Hecken, G. and J. Bastiaensen (2010) Payments for Ecosystem Services in Nicaragua: Do Market-Based Approaches Work?, Development and Change 41(3): 421-444.


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