UNU-INWEH Coordinated Initiative Focuses on Economics of Land Degradation

  • 2013•10•09     Hamilton

    As scientific coordinators for the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative, Dr. Richard Thomas and Dr. Emmanuelle Quillérou of the UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) attended the 11th Conference of Parties (COP-11) for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Windhoek, Namibia, for the launch of the ELD Interim Report.

    Economic benefits obtained from investing in and applying sustainable land management are often greater than the costs of taking action to prevent and/or reverse land degradation. The ELD Initiative Interim Report reveals that even with incomplete assessments of the total value of ecosystem services provided by land, such investments are socially and environmentally beneficial.

    In particular, African, Asian, and Central and South American countries need to build their capacity to assess the true economic value of their land. Current case studies indicate that much of the work in these areas has been undertaken by foreign scientists with limited local involvement. The ELD Initiative will incorporate capacity-building activities into its projects to ensure qualified personnel are available in affected countries.

    The study concludes that adopting proven sustainable land management practices could raise world crop supplies by an estimated 2.3 billion tonnes, worth US$1.4 trillion.

    There are several options and pathways to address land degradation, including reforestation, adopting sustainable agriculture, and establishing alternative non-agricultural livelihoods (e.g., eco-tourism). Among the economic instruments available to accomplish this are payments for ecosystem services, subsidies, taxes, and access to micro-finance and credit.

    Changes require an enabling environment that has removed technical, political, legal, cultural, social and environmental barriers. Actions must be complementary, sustainable and locally targeted, and must provide incentives for appropriate economic action. To achieve this, the ELD Initiative aims to engage an all-encompassing range of stakeholders in discussions.

    The ELD Initiative will build upon existing methodologies and assessments to design a comprehensive, global and scalable toolbox for the outlined goals, highlighted in three separate reports aimed at the private sector, decision-makers, and the scientific community.

    “Today [land] degradation, due largely to mismanagement, is a growing global concern, especially given rising populations and slowing increases in crop yield”, said UNU-INWEH Director Zafar Adeel, “Sound economic valuations to inform decision-making are an essential part of the multi-faceted approach required to slow and reverse a problem reaching crisis levels already in many places worldwide.”

    To learn more about the ELD Initiative, or to download the ELD Interim Report, see the Economics of Land Degradation page on the UNU-INWEH website.