The economics of desertification, land degradation and drought toward an integrated global assessment | Land Portal

Resource information

Date of publication: 
December 2011
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ISBN / Resource ID: 

Since the publication of the Report of the Brundtland Commission (Our Common Future) in 1987, and the consequent Earth Summit on sustainable development, global attention on natural resource scarcity and degradation has been increasing, because of climate change and rising food and energy prices. This awareness, in turn, has led to growing interest in land investments by the private and public sectors. Despite this interest, however, land degradation has not been comprehensively addressed at the global level or in developing countries. A suitable economic framework that could guide investments and institutional action is lacking. This study aims to overcome this deficiency and to provide a framework for a global assessment based on a consideration of the costs of action versus inaction.

Thus, a type of Stern Review (Stern 2006) for desertification, land degradation, and drought (DLDD) is aimed for on the basis of this study. The urgency of land degradation problems, the increased value of land, and new science insights all suggest that the time is ripe for a global assessment of the economics of DLDD (E-DLDD). Land degradation is taking place in all agroecological zones. Desertification, land degradation, and drought have long affected the world. Yet, they are increasingly considered a global problem, as their extent and impacts are increasingly affecting environmental and social vulnerability. Drought is a naturally occurring phenomenon that can accelerate desertification and land degradation. The Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research predicts an increase in the global area expected to experience severe drought at any point from 10 percent of the world‘s land surface in 2005 to 40 percent in the future for a given global warming of 3–4 degrees Celsius (Stern 2006). According to Webster et al. (2008), an increase in drought frequency is also expected (for example, an increase of 10 percent in southeastern and southern Asia and an increase of 20 percent in East Africa and Central America). In countries that heavily depend on rainfed agriculture or that have low riskbearing ability, drought leads to high economic loss and human suffering. Between 2000 and 2008, the average global annual economic cost of climate-related disasters—including drought, extreme temperatures, and wildfires—was US$9.39 billion,1 underscoring the need to enhance land users‘ ability to bear drought risks. Drought is linked to land degradation in several ways.

However, as a recurrent fluctuation, drought requires a different type of treatment than more permanent changes, such as land degradation, in a global assessment of DLDD.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Nkonya, Ephraim
Gerber, Nicolas
Baumgartner, Philipp
Braun, Joachim von
Pinto, Alex de
Graw, Valerie
Kato, Edward
Kloos, Julia
Walter, Teresa


The Center for Development Research (ZEF) is an institute of the University of Bonn, Germany. It started its research activities in 1997. ZEF's researchers aim to find science-based solutions to development-related issues. ZEF’s research departments on Economic and Technological Change, Political and Cultural Change, and  Ecology and Natural Resources Management conduct inter- and trans-disciplinary research in, for and with emerging economies and on global issues with its collaborating research partners around the world.

Data provider

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.


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