Economics of Land Degradation in Central Asia
Land degradation is a major development challenge in Central Asia, with negative implications on rural livelihoods and food security. We estimate the annual cost of land degradation in the region due to land use and cover change between 2001 and 2009 to be about 6 billion USD, most of which due to rangeland degradation (4.6 billion USD), followed by desertification (0.8 billion USD), deforestation (0.3 billion USD) and abandonment of croplands (0.1 billion USD). The costs of action against land degradation are found to be lower than the costs of inaction in Central Asia by 5 times over a 30-year horizon, meaning that each dollar spent on addressing land degradation is likely to have about 5 dollars of returns. This is a very strong economic justification favoring action versus inaction against land degradation. Specifically, the costs of action were found to equal about 53 billion USD over a 30-year horizon, whereas if nothing is done, the resulting losses may equal almost 288 billion USD during the same period. Better access to markets, extension services, secure land tenure, and livestock ownership among smallholder crop producers are found to be major drivers of SLM adoptions.