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Study reveals high cost of degradation, drought

The global community is losing up to five percent of global agricultural gross domestic production (GDP) due to land degradation, according to a recent scientific study.

The study titled, “The Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought: Methodologies and Analysis for Decision-Making,” was presented during the UNCCD 2nd Scientific Conference which held last week in Bonn, Germany.


Former President of Finland,Tarja Halonen; Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary, and Walter Ammann, President, Global Risk Forum (GRF) Davos, addressed the opening session.

Over 600 hundred scientists and representatives of government, international and civil society organisations attended the conference.

It was organised by a consortium led by the GRF Davos, under the theme, “Economic assessment of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas.”


“Poverty eradication will still be the main goal of the international community. The trinity of green growth, social justice and global environmental boundaries should guide the work on Sustainable Development Goals for the post 2015 period,” said Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and Chairman of the Global Sustainability Panel.

“Sustainable land management, prevention of land degradation and rehabilitation of land is a most effective and cost benefit way to eradicate rural poverty. Land will provide food, decent job and income to the rural people. Sustainable land management is also closely linked with availability of energy and water sources,” she stressed.

She said that the information presented to the 2nd Scientific Conference of UNCCD indicates that integration of sustainable land management as a central part in the development policies and international cooperation will be smart economics, contribute to better life in rural areas and mitigate the environmental challenges.


According to Luc Gnacadja, “This is the first economic valuation of the cost of desertification and drought in over twenty years. It shows that desertification, land degradation and drought are key constraints to building social and environmental resilience, achieving global food security and delivering meaningful poverty reduction. Without action they will remain development’s Achilles Heel.”

“The study also points to significant opportunities for action but shows that unless scientific understanding of all land degradation and drought is strengthened, especially in the context of a changing climate, the global community is poorly positioned to deal with the impact of change. Business as usual is no longer an option,” he warned.

President GRF Davos, Walter Ammann, on his part declared: “Fertile soil is our most valuable non-renewable resource. It lays the foundation for life, feeding the billions populating of our planet. Nevertheless, each year an area three times the size of Switzerland is lost for good due to desertification. We are cutting off the branch we are sitting on! We need to move from Thoughts to Action now! This conference is an important step.”

The study shows that between 4-12 percent of Africa’s agricultural GDP is lost due to environmental degradation. The direct economic costs of land degradation at country level vary widely, with some as high as 6.6 percent of agricultural GDP in Paraguay, nine percent in Burkina Faso and 24 percent in Guatemala.

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