Land degradation and desertification threatens fertile land throughout the world. The consequences are alarming: smaller harvests, reduced availability of clean water, increased vulnerability of affected areas to climate change, and not least, food insecurity and poverty. It is estimated that 1.5 billion people in all parts of the world are already directly affected by this. In light of the world’s growing population, food security is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. There is increasing pressure on land from competition for food and biofuel production, an increasing loss of productive potential from increasing degradation and more recently, frequent acquisition of land via foreign investorsattempting to secure food security. From this, there is an urgent need to create real values for land, for the benefit of its inhabitants and sustainable management practices. Land can and has been given both monetary and non-monetary values, but until now studies have been relatively sporadic, unrelated, and difficult to compare. Following several recommendations on this topic, including a position paper by UNU-INWEH and other collaborators in 2009, a new initiative has been launched to address the gaps in information and to make progress towards an internationally harmonized approach and the development of tools that can be easily used by all nations, ministries, and institutions with land responsibilities.Actualized from these observations, the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) is an initiative for a global study on the economic benefits of land and land based ecosystems. The initiative highlights the value of sustainable land management and provides a global approach for the analysis of the economics of land degradation. It aims to make the economics of land degradation an integral part of policy strategies and decision making by increasing political and public awareness. This methodological approach will translate economic, social, and ecological knowledge into topical information and tools to support improved policy-making and practices in land management that are be suitable for policy makers, scientific communities, local administrators/practitioners, and the private sector. This will enable informed decisions towards strengthening sustainable rural development and ensuring global food security. Reportstailored to these groups will be produced between 2014 and 2015 with a view to impact the debate on development policy, food security, green growth, and rural development in a post-Millennium Development Goal environment.
The vision of the ELD Initiative is to transform global understanding and create awareness of the economic case for both market and non-market values associated with sustainable land management, with an aim to prevent the loss of natural capital, preserve ecosystem services, combat climate change, and address food, energy, and water security.
In line with the recent UN publication on Global Drylands (www.unemg.org), the stated goal is to identify win-win areas for investment in land care and provide countries with a means to value their land assets accurately, for improved planning and more informed land-use negotiations.UNU-INWEH has been appointed the Scientific Coordinator for this initiative and plays an active role in the ELD initiative’s development and progress, with funding support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).The ELD initiative is also conducted in support of the UN Decade on the Fight Against Desertification. This decade was declared by the UN General Assembly to be from the year 2010 – 2020, with an objective to promote action that will protect the dry lands and its inhabitants. Further details of the initiative are available on the ELD Initiative website(http://eld-initiative.org), as well as from ELD Partners. The ELD Initiative is actively interested in and welcomes participation and feedback from any parties with interest in the topic and its related areas.
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