eld-iucn-fao22 April 2015: A side event convened by partner organizations involved in the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative (ELD) at the 3rd Global Soil Week reviewed preliminary economic valuations conducted in Mali, Jordan and Sudan that quantified the economic costs and benefits of ecosystem services derived from implementing sustainable management practices such as agroforestry, restoration and planned grazing management at the landscape level.

Introducing the overall objective of the ELD study, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted it aimed to develop a methodology that can help countries affected by land degradation to: undertake an evidence-based analysis of the costs and benefits of their interventions; estimate non-market values of ecosystem services; contribute to an improved understanding of the value of ecosystem services to local livelihoods; and contribute to improved monitoring and evaluation for total ecosystem assessments.

The final study report analyses some of the biophysical changes as well as economic benefits derived from implementing land-use policy changes at the landscape level in Jordan, Mali and Sudan. The Mali study focuses on providing tangible economic evidence to support agroforestry and reforestation in the Kelka region as a means to reverse deforestation and land degradation. The Sudan study uses a total economic valuation assessment framework to explore the costs and benefits (both marketable and non-marketable) of sustainable land use interventions, such as agroforestry using Senegalia senegal in the drylands of Gedaref State. The study in Jordan entails a smallholder agricultural and livestock survey combined with secondary data to estimate the on-site benefits associated with restoration of rangelands leading to enhanced livestock productivity and regeneration of medicinal plant species.

During the discussions, participants highlighted a range of tools and data that can help to quantify the changes to ecosystem services at the landscape level as a result of implementing sustainable land use practices. The side event also provided a platform for discussing possible entry points for research findings into decision making processes and actions needed from the perspective of different stakeholders.

In related plenary discussions during the conference, Moujahed Achouri, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Land and Water Division, noted that soils sustain 95% of food production, host more than a quarter of the planet’s biodiversity, are a major source of pharmaceuticals, and play a critical role in the carbon cycle, but warned that pressures on soil resources “are reaching critical limits.” Achouri described the rate of land degradation – currently estimated at 33% globally – as “alarming,” noting it could lead to increased food insecurity and rising poverty. [IUCN Economic Valuation of Rangeland Ecosystem Services & Degradation Research Project Website] [Publication: Economic Valuation of Rangeland Ecosystem Services and Degradation – Biophysical Report] [Global Soil Week] [Land Policy & Practice Story on Pastoralism and the Green Economy] [FAO News Story on Link Between Healthy Soils and Food Production]