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The rewards of investing in sustainable land management

This report by the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative shows that actions to prevent or reverse land degradation can be financially rewarding, bring environmental benefits and help reduce poverty.

Stacey Noel / Published on 24 September 2013

Thomas, R.J., E. Quillérou and N. Stewart (eds.); contributing authors: L. Andeltova, E. Barbier, L. Baker, K. Shim, S. Noel, S. Quatrini, M. Schauer (2013). The rewards of investing in sustainable land management. ELD Initiative (2013). The rewards of investing in sustainable land management. Interim Report for the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative: A global strategy for sustainable land management. Available from:

The ELD Initiative is dedicated to raising global awareness of the full economic potential of land and land services, including market and non-market values (e.g. carbon sequestration, recreational values, nutrient cycling, etc.) and the costs of land degradation. It focuses on creating efficient and practical tools and methodologies to fully assess land’s value and thus encourage sustainable land management.

The report argues that land’s economic value is chronically undervalued, and that a focus on short-term gain motivates the highest extraction rates possible from land, leading to unsustainable land management and degradation. Yet the adoption of sustainable land management, the authors argue, could deliver up to USD 1.4 trillion in increased crop production, among other benefits. Given the combined global trends of increasing population and decreasing land availability and quality, there is great incentive to increase productivity on parcels of land already in use and promote sustainable land management.

The authors also argue that the costs of taking action to prevent and/or reverse land degradation are usually less than the benefits that can be obtained for investing in and applying sustainable land management practices, and they offer case studies to support this argument.

Several existing options and pathways for action to address land degradation are available for successful change. These options range from adapting to biophysical conditions, to changing livelihood strategies. Examples include: reforestation, afforestation, the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices, and the establishment of alternative livelihoods such as eco-tourism.

Economic instruments to reverse land degradation trends include: payments for ecosystem services, subsidies, taxes, voluntary payments for environmental conservation, and access to micro-finance and credit. In addition, facilitating change requires adaptations to legal, social, and policy-focused contexts that favour sustainable land management.

Download the report (external PDF link to ELD website, 6MB)

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Topics and subtopics
Land : Land use, Forests, Ecosystems / Economy : Finance
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