The Economics of Land Degradation

ZEF Working Paper No. 109

35 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2013

See all articles by Joachim von Braun

Joachim von Braun

University of Bonn - Department of Economic and Technological Change

Nicolas Gerber

University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF)

Alisher Mirzabaev

University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF)

Ephraim Nkonya

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: March 1, 2013

Abstract

Healthy soils are essential for sustaining economies and human livelihoods. In spite of this, the key ecosystem services provided by soils have usually been taken for granted and their true value – beyond market value – is being underrated. This pattern of undervaluation of soils is about to change in view of rapidly raising land prices, which is the result of increased shortage of land and raising output prices that drive implicit prices of land (with access to water) upward. Moreover, the value of soil related ecosystems services is being better understood and increasingly valued.

It is estimated that about a quarter of global land area is degraded, affecting about 1.5 billion people in all agro-ecologies around the world. Land degradation has its highest toll on the livelihoods and well-being of the poorest households in the rural areas of developing countries. Vicious circles of poverty and land degradation, as well as transmission effects from rural poverty and food insecurity to national economies, critically hamper their development process.

Despite the need for preventing and reversing land degradation, the problem has yet to be appropriately addressed. Policy action for sustainable land use is lacking, and a policy framework for action is missing. Key objectives of this Issue Paper and of a proposed related global assessment of the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) are: first, to raise awareness about the need for and role of an assessment of the economic, social and environmental costs of land degradation; and second, to propose and illustrate a scientific framework to conduct such an assessment, based on the costs of action versus inaction against land degradation. Preliminary findings suggest that the costs of inaction are much higher than the costs of action.

Keywords: Economics of Land Degradation, ecosystem services, land degradation neutrality

Suggested Citation

von Braun, Joachim and Gerber, Nicolas and Mirzabaev, Alisher and Nkonya, Ephraim, The Economics of Land Degradation (March 1, 2013). ZEF Working Paper No. 109. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2237977 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2237977

Joachim Von Braun (Contact Author)

University of Bonn - Department of Economic and Technological Change ( email )

Walter-Flex-Str. 3
Bonn, 53113
Germany

Nicolas Gerber

University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF) ( email )

Walter-Flex-Strasse 3
Bonn, D-53113
Germany

Alisher Mirzabaev

University of Bonn - Center for Development Research (ZEF) ( email )

Walter-Flex-Str. 3
Bonn, NRW 53113
Germany

Ephraim Nkonya

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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