The Economics of Land Degradation

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Land degradation is a serious threat to long-term food security. To resolve the paradox of growing land values in the face of continually low investment levels, research-based policy action is needed. With this in mind, IFPRI and the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn (ZEF) researchers, with support from BMZ and later from the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), gathered and analyzed existing knowledge on land degradation as part of the Economics of Land Degradation initiative.


The research results, which focused on the causes, costs, and repercussions of land degradation, were summarized in the book Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement. Results showed that land degradation over the next 25 years may reduce global food production by up to 12 percent, resulting in an increase of up to 30 percent in world food prices. Further, the project identified activities and areas where investments would have the highest expected returns and largest impact on human welfare, such as agricultural research and development and building local agricultural capacity.


  • The findings were included in the Zero Net Land Degradation report of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The report contributed to the final resolution of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012, which was signed by heads of state and government and high-level representatives. The resolution called for urgent action to reverse land degradation. Further, the conference launched the process to establish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), emphasizing the need to halt and reverse land degradation under SDG 15.
  • In 2015, a UNCCD report, Reaping the Rewards: Financing Land Degradation Neutrality, drew from this joint research to demonstrate the value of investing in and scaling up sustainable land management using existing resources.
  • To increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions, the UN declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils and commissioned FAO as the implementer. This joint research on land degradation was used as one of the key resources to inform a global dialogue.
  • In 2011, the EU Commissioner for Development cited the research results in his speech to the UN General Assembly during the High-Level Meeting on Addressing Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought, after which findings were discussed in more detail at a side event.
  • In 2011, this study contributed to FAO’s flagship publication, The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture (SOLAW).

For more information on IFPRI's partnerships with Germany, please go to this brochure.