ELD - Economics of Land Degradation


Costs of land degradation, global assessment, representative case studies, partnerships for an ELD global initiative


Argentina, Bhutan, China, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Russian Federation, Senegal, Tanzania, Uzbekistan


Land degradation is a global problem, affecting about a quarter of global land area. Moreover, about 42% of the very poor live on degraded land. Given that the poor heavily depend on natural resources, land degradation compromises their welfare and poses a daunting challenge to national and global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Additionally, recent global events related to high food prices, increasing demand for bioenergy, large land acquisitions in developing countries by international investors and other events have revealed the growing recognition by both private and public actors that land scarcity is increasingly an issue. As a result, the attention of policy makers at national, regional and international levels has recently increased significantly.

The current increased awareness provides an opportunity for mobilizing investments in the sustainable management of land resources at national and global levels. Such investment requires a careful economic assessment of land degradation, its drivers and the returns to investments for rehabilitating land or preventing land degradation.

Assessment study
To achieve this, during 2010-2011, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – commissioned a global study assessing the state-of-the-knowledge on the economics of land degradation.

This study also sought to develop an analytical conceptual framework for global assessment of land degradation. The study was implemented by the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) and Center for Development Research (ZEF). The IFPRI-ZEF study “The Economics of Land Degradation: Toward an integrated global assessment” (2010 – 2011) (Nkonya et al. 2011) also identified a number of gaps in the science, partnerships and institutional set-ups required for achieving an integrated global assessment of the economics of land degradation (ELD).

Current project
This current project now seeks to implement the approach recommended by Nkonya et al. (2011) for conducting an integrated global assessment of the costs of action and inaction against land degradation. This initiative and approach differ significantly from past global studies, which largely examined the biophysical extent and impacts of land degradation. Taking note of the evolving science and methodologies for the biophysical assessment of land degradation, the proposed approach emphasizes the need to initiate investment action against land degradation.

Decision to take action against land degradation is guided by its social costs – broadly defined as loss of human welfare on-site and off-site and costs and benefits of actions against land degradation. The focus on the societal cost of land degradation underlies the need to determine the appropriate and cost-effective actions against land degradation. Such actions can be taken after a careful assessment of the extent, severity of land degradation, its effect on human welfare.


To achieve this task, the proposed ELD conceptual framework uses the total economic value (TEV) approach – which analyzes the on-site and off-site direct and indirect societal costs and benefits of land degradation in the present and future periods. Analysis of the on-site and off-site costs of inaction against land degradation needs to be confronted with the costs and benefit of action against land degradation.

Main Cooperation Partners

  • <link http: www.cgiar.org _blank external link in new>CGIAR
  • <link http: www.eld-initiative.org _blank external link in new>ELD Initiative
  • <link http: www.ifpri.org _blank external link in new>IFPRI
  • <link http: www.unccd.int en pages default.aspx _blank external link in new>UNCCD
  • <link http: www.igidr.ac.in _blank external link in new>Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR)
  • <link http: icarda.org _blank external link in new>International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)
  • <link http: www.kari.org _blank external link in new>Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)
  • <link http: www.uns.ethz.ch people science leq _blank external link in new>ETH Zürich
  • <link http: www.ambiente.gov.ar external-link-new-window external link in new>Ministry of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development of Argentina
  • <link http: en.ccap.org.cn _blank external link in new>Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
  • <link http: ecfs.msu.ru _blank external link in new>Eurasian Center for Food Security (ECFS)
  • <link http: www.eeaecon.org external-link-new-window external link in new>Ethiopian Economics Association/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute
  • <link http: inran.refer.ne _blank external link in new>Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger
  • National partners in case study countries
  • Other regional and global partners
Main Funding Partners


Further information

ZEF and IFPRI side event on Sustainable Land Management at IFPRI 2020 Policy Consultation and Conference

ZEF and IFPRI co-organized a side event on Sustainable Land Management at the IFPRI 2020 Policy Consultation and Conference on Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security. The conference took place on 15-17 May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Economics of Land Degradation team from ZEF, IFPRI, INRAN and EEA presented during the side-event.

Watch all the speeches of the side event <link https: www.youtube.com external link in new>here.


Assessing the Economic Benefits of Sustainable Land Management Practices in Bhutan. 2014. IFPRI Discussion Paper 01361. Washington, USA.
(by Ephraim Nkonya, Raghavan Srinivasan, Weston Anderson and Edward Kato)
<link http: www.ifpri.org sites default files publications ifpridp01361.pdf _blank external link in new>» Download

Biomass Productivity-Based Mapping of Global Land Degradation Hotspots. ZEF Discussion Papers 193, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, July 2014.
(by Quang Bao Le, Ephraim Nkonya and Alisher Mirzabaev)
<link file:2191 _blank external link in new>» Download

Exploiting provisions of land economic productivity without degrading its natural capital. Journal of Arid Environments, 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2014.05.012
(by Ephraim Nkonya and Weston Anderson)

Economics of Land Degradation in Eastern Africa.
ZEF Working Papers 128, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, 2014. (by Oliver Kirui and Alisher Mirzabaev)
<link file:2192 _blank external link in new>» Download

Land Degradation, Poverty and Marginality
by Gerber, Nicolas, Ephraim Nkonya, and Joachim von Braun, 2014. Marginality. Springer Netherlands, 181-202.

Global extent of land degradation and its human Dimension
In: Principles of Sustainable Soil Management in Agroecosystems, ed. Rattan Lal, and B.A. Stewart. Boca Raton, FL, US: CRC Press, 2013
(by Nkonya, E. Joachim von Braun, Jawoo Koo, and Zhe Guo)

Economics of Land Degradation Initiative: Methods and Approach for Global and National Assessments
ZEF Discussion Paper 183, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2013
(by Ephraim Nkonya, Joachim von Braun, Alisher Mirzabaev, Bao Quang Le, Ho Young Kwon, Oliver Kirui
<link file:2193 _blank external link in new>» Download

The Economics of Land Degradation
An Issue Paper for Global Soil Week, Berlin November 18–22, 2012 (by Joachim von Braun, Nicolas Gerber, Alisher Mirzabaev, Ephraim Nkonya)
<link file:2194 _blank>» Download

The Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation, and Drought - Toward an Integrated Global Assessment
ZEF-Discussion Papers on Development Policy No. 150, Center for Development Research (ZEF), Bonn, May 2011 (by Ephraim Nkonya, Nicolas Gerber, Philipp Baumgartner, Joachim von Braun, Alex De Pinto, Valerie Graw, Edward Kato, Julia Kloos, Teresa Walter)
<link file:2195 _blank>» Download


Duration of the Project

2012 - 2014

Project Homepage


Alisher Mirzabaev

PD Dr. Alisher Mirzabaev


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