Gert Van Hecken

Assistant Professor

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About Gert Van Hecken

Short Bio

I am working as a lecturer (tenure track) 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), a Master in Environmental Sciences (University of Antwerp) and a Master in Business Engineering (University of Antwerp).

During the past ten years I have spent a lot of time in Nicaragua, working as a postdoctoral researcher on environmental governance 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 government organisations (e.g. Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA)), and academic institutions (e.g. Universidad Centroamericana (UCA)).


Research interests

My main research interests lie in the area of global and local environmental governance and development, and more specifically in the socio-political dynamics triggered by (international) conditional climate change/development finance instruments, such as carbon and biodiversity markets and Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). 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.



At the IOB, I am teaching courses on Qualitative Development Monitoring & Evaluation, on the Economics and Politics of Aid, and on the Global Environment-Development nexus in the Master of Development Evaluation and Management and the Master of Globalization and Development.

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 governance of natural resources in the Master of Territorial Development at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), Nicaragua.


Supervision of PhD students

I am currently (co)supervising several PhD students working on "The political ecology of green microfinance instruments in Nicaragua", on "Global-to-local political contestations of conditional finance mechanisms under the Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) framework in the Democratic Republic of Congo", and on "Socio-economic effects of community-based conservation initiatives on local populations in and around UNESCO biosphere reserves".


My key publications in academic journals include:

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.

Kolinjivadi, V., G. Van Hecken, D. Vela Almeida, J. Dupras, N. Kosoy (2017) Neoliberal performatives and the 'making' of Payments for Ecosystem Services. Progress in Human Geography,

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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