Economics of sustainable land management
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Degradation of soil and land resources is a critical global problem. It is widespread not only in drylands and cropped areas, but in most agro-ecologies and biomes around the world. Unless addressed, it may undermine global food security and negatively affect the livelihoods of billions of people, especially of the poor. Addressing land degradation requires public, community and private actions informed and supported by evidence-based research. The current paper reviews the recent economic literature on land degradation and improvement with the purpose of highlighting major new insights and continuing gaps. Drawing conclusions from the recent research under the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative, we find that action against land degradation has considerably higher economic, environmental and social returns than inaction. The drivers of land degradation are numerous and often context-specific, so addressing them requires targeting not some individual driver in isolation, but through comprehensive and mutually consistent packages of policy actions. We suggest the following conceptual, methodological and empirical areas for future research on economics of land degradation. Firstly, more interdisciplinary conceptual frameworks are required to connect land degradation and other intricately related issues such as climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, energy and food security. In this regard, Water-Energy-Food Security (WEF) Nexus concept can be highly useful as one of such nexus platforms for future trans-disciplinary research on economics of land degradation. Secondly, more rigorous methodologies are needed on the incorporation of the value of ecosystem services into economic calculations. Finally, there is a need for empirical studies tracing the dynamic economic and social impacts of land degradation across scales: from household to global level.
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