New report highlights cost of land degradation and potential for agroforestry in rehabilitation

Land degradation is costing the world $10.6tn every year, equivalent to 17 per cent of global gross domestic product, says a new report by the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) initiative.

Tree planting in Matmata, Tunisia to prevent soil erosion. Photo: Dennis Jarvis

Tree planting in Matmata, Tunisia to prevent soil erosion. Photo: Dennis Jarvis

This figure takes into account costs associated with lost agricultural production and diminished livelihoods as well as the lost value of ecosystem services formerly provided by the land, including water filtration, erosion prevention, nutrient cycling and the provision of clean air, reports an article in The Guardian.

The report found that more than half of the world’s arable land is moderately or severely degraded. The impacts of land degradation include soil erosion, lower carbon storage, less ability to produce food and energy, and in some cases migration.

Karmenu Vella, European commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said that land degradation and desertification is forcing hundreds of thousands to move from their homes. A study by the UN’s Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) found that the process may drive an estimated 50 million people from their homes in the next 10 years.

The good news is that there are 2 billion hectares of arable land that could be rehabilitated and used for agricultural production.

“We should look at realigning the incentive structure that we have away from incentives that degrade the land to those that promote sustainable management,” said Louise Baker, coordinator of external relations at the UNCCD Baker. She outlined practices such as agroforestry, terracing on sloping lands, water harvesting and appropriate crop selection which would help combat degradation.

The report says that if sustainable land management was rolled out around the world, as much as $75.6tn could be added to the global economy every year through jobs and increased agricultural output.

The report has been compiled by 30 research and policy institutions led by the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health and the CGIAR Research Programme on Dryland Systems.

Read the full story: Land degradation costs the world up to $10.6tn a year, report says

Download the report: a report published on Tuesday by the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative'

Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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