Desertification, land degradation, and drought are widespread global issues that threaten the future of our earth in terms of food, water, and energy security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and livelihood resilience, to name a few. Many of the pressures on land are driven by anthropogenic demands on land and land-based ecosystems, and unfortunately impact the most vulnerable human populations – the rural poor. Tackling this necessary issue thus requires a complex set of solutions that integrate biophysical, technological, and social realities and management strategies. One particular pressure has been the focus on short-term economic gains from land resources over long-term sustainable uses, partly driven by a lack of understanding of the value of land.
The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative is an international collaboration incepted in 2012, with the aim of integrating awareness of the economics of land degradation and sustainable land management into the scientific, political, public, and private spheres. Through research, capacity-building, and active knowledge exchange, it seeks to ensure that the economics of sustainable land management are understood and useful.
Valuing land fully is no easy feat, and thus the ELD Initiative provides ground-truthed tools and assessments that will allow other parties to undertake cost-benefit analyses of land and land use through total economic valuation. This is expected to help shine a light on the hidden values of land that are currently not considered when making decisions about its management (e.g., nutrient cycling, water retention, storm protection). Fully informed economic valuations are a central component of this, especially as economics provide a neutral and equalising language for different stakeholders to discuss their needs, costs, and benefits, and come to optimal, mutual sustainable land management strategies. This is a critical goal for humanity to accomplish, as sustainable land management is an essential aspect of a future that involves both environmental and human well-being.
The ELD Initiative is a multi-donor project, inclusive of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), European Commission, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Korea Forest Services (KFS).