The report, titled The Value of Land, is a comprehensive assessment of land degradation and sustainable land management.

SEI Africa Centre Director Stacey Noel, along with partners, contributed to the main report, as well as acting as lead author on a parallel report geared towards policy and decision-makers.

“Land degradation is a critical issue, and this report will help to put it on the global agenda. But we must also move from analysis to solutions, and that’s why we have also published a report that offers advice for decision-makers on how they can take action”, said Noel.

Land degradation is a worldwide responsibility

The European Commission Director-General for Environment Daniel Calleja, speaking at an ELD event in Brussels, said that the report “comes at the right time”, just before the adoption of the global 2030 agenda for sustainable development, and the climate change discussions.

“The amount of land currently available for cultivation continues to shrink. Today over half of the land used for agriculture worldwide is moderately or severely affected by soil degradation. Moreover land degradation is not limited to the world’s arid regions. In the EU, twelve Member States have declared themselves affected parties under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification”, said Calleja.

The report notes that 24% of the world’s productive lands are degraded, causing food insecurity, poverty, lack of clean water, and increased vulnerability in areas affected by climate change.

Also speaking in Brussels, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut said, “Every item we have or consume costs land. A cup of coffee costs four square metres of land. A taxi within a city costs 150 square metres. A laptop cost 10 square metres. The estimated value of ecosystem losses – as a result of land degradation – is between 850 and 1400 USD per year for every one of us on the planet.”

The ELD Initiative estimates that the global loss of ecosystem service values (ESV) costs between USD 6.3 and 10.6 trillion annually. The report points out that the effects of land degradation and desertification are distributed unevenly throughout human populations and often impact on the most vulnerable – the rural poor.

Opportunities in sustainable land management

The ELD initiative reports describe the huge opportunities in sustainable land management – for private and public investors alike. According to the report there are currently 2 billion hectares of degraded land, with 75% of this land located in working landscapes. Rehabilitating the nearly 500 million hectares of abandoned agricultural land would help achieve Sustainable Development Goal target 15.3, and provide food security and economic opportunities. The report claims that this land can be rehabilitated for an average price of less than 200 Euros per hectare. A case study in Mali showed a return of 12 Euros for every 1 Euro invested.