The GM is co-financing a two-day international workshop on the economic and social costs of desertification, to be held in Rome at the Headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 4 and 5 December 2006.
Desertification is both human-induced and caused by the decline in rainfall that has been observed for 35 years, especially in Africa. Concurrently, public investments in agriculture and breeding have declines and private funding is very low. Despite considerable efforts by the affected populations, various government measures and international public support, desertification and land degradation are increasing. The potential human and environmental consequences range from reduced fertility and outputs, increased erosion, aggravated poverty and precariousness to social instability, struggle for access to scarce resources, migration and international conflict.
The need for economic evidence
Undoubtedly, investments in the regions subject to desertification should be increased, yet the economic evidence needed to convince national stakeholders and bilateral and multilateral donors of the scale of the problem and thus the impelling need to invest in sustainable land management, are lacking. In practice, few studies have assessed the economic and social costs generated by land degradation. Existing methods are not comprehensive and cannot take properly into account the non-monetary aspects of desertification, its “off-site” impacts and social consequences. Moreover, reliable, up-to-date, local, national and global data is scarce.
Organizations including the World Bank (WB), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its Global Mechanism GM) and the French Development Agency (AFD), have recently promoted studies to take stock of the economic cost of desertification. Both the 6th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD (COP 6) in 2003 and COP 7 in 2005, recommended considering the “cost of inaction”. The last Franco-German forum on research cooperation (Potsdam 2005) made this theme a priority. The first results of a study conducted by C3ED of the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines and financed by AFD under the aegis of CSFD, bring significant input to this debate.
It is in this context that the workshop is being organized with the objectives of:
- pooling knowledge on methods of assessing natural resources and the results derived from cost-effectiveness studies on desertification - comparing findings on economic loss;
- analysing the known costs of desertification to support prevention and corrective action such as land restoration, rehabilitation, and improvement;
- considering various methods of analysing the social costs of desertification;
- developing solid arguments in favour of investment in arid and semi-arid areas; and
- setting up an international network on the economic and social costs of desertification.
The workshop is being organized by the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD), in conjunction with Agropolis-International and the French Development Agency (AFD), and is being sponsored by the UNCCD Secretariat, the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD and the German network, “Desertnet”.
Participants will include around 30 invited experts from: African countries belonging to AMU, CILSS and OSS, France; Germany the Netherlands; Sweden; USA; UNCCD/GM; IFAD; FAO; UNESCO, GEF, WB; and Northern and Southern public decision-makers and multilateral donors.