6 Steps to estimate the economic benefits and costs of action

There are 6 steps to estimate the economic benefits and costs of action:

1. Inception
Identification of the scope, loacation, spatial scale, and strategic focus of the study

2. Geographical characteristics
Assessment of quantity, spatial distribution, and ecological characteristics

3. Types of ecosystem services
Analysis of ecosystem services stocks and flows

4. Role of ecosystem services in community livelihoods and economic valuation
Role of the assessed ecosystem services in the livelihoods of the communities; role of overall economic development

5. Land degradation patterns and pressure
Identification of land degradation patterns, drivers and pressure on the sustainable management of land resources

6. Cost-benefit analysis and decision-making
Assessment of sustainable land management options

+1 step: Take action!

Read more: ELD Interim Report p 42

85 thoughts on “6 Steps to estimate the economic benefits and costs of action

  1. Busuulwa Huthaifah A

    In countries like mine, Uganda, many people are ignorant about the value of land and ecosystems, yet God gifted this country with natural beauty, grounded on the lands that our people often abuse.

    1. Aljosa Zavisic

      Nothing worse than ignorance, especially when we are talking about our land that assures the very livelihood we depend on. This type of attitude will hurt the next generations making it difficult to even survive. Luckily your eyes are open, so you can speak up and teach at least your friends and neighbors the benefits of taking care of their surroundings.

      1. Ana Abigail

        Aljosa, I used to think that ignorance was the problem. Although I realized there is something more dangerous: unconsciousness, meaning you know about it (maybe not as an expert), but still do not act upon it. I come from a very technified agricultural state in Mexico. There is knowledge of economics of resource degradation. Some landlords try to “return” a bit to the ecosystem, but some others just see how to improve the business -choosing inaction.

        1. AnaRiza Mendoza

          I’m looking into Ana Abigail’s point of view. Yes, ignorance is a big problem but unconsciousness is a bigger issue. There are those who are aware of what will be the consequences of their action on their land and natural resources but only consider on what is at present. They do not mind on what’s gonna happen in the future as a result of their action or in-action.

          1. KD Lane

            I agree that some people act and make choices that seem ignorant or without out consciousness but often people act out of desperation. Education is key to overcoming many obstacles, but social justice, environmental justice, and economic justice need to be intertwined so that everyone can make choices from a level playing field.

        2. Lizzie Gachie

          I suggest enhancing education in economics of land degradation can help alleviate ignorance. This should be done at all levels. Awareness of what ignorance can cause is important. I think it is better if people err unconsciously when they know they err for lack of knowledge.

      2. Charles Siantimba

        In Zambia the Zambezi river flood plains in the Western part of Zambia,most people live in the Zambezi flood plains and their livelihood depends on the same.The plain is fertile and alot of agriculture activities,fishing takes place in the plains.Crops like Cassava,rice,cashew nuts ,ground nuts and Maize are grown in the Zambezi flood plains.
        When the flood plains are flooded ,the King of the Lozi people called Litunga moves from the flood plain capital called Lealui going to the higher ground capital called Limulunga.This movement is called Kuomboka and the badge that he uses is called the Nalikwanda which is painted white and black .This event attracts alot of tourists both local and international.It actually acts as a money spinner as a lot of people make alot of money and also the tourism is boosted through these international arrivals who come to see this spectacular event take place.
        This traditional ceremony normally takes place in March when water levels are high so that this big badge carrying the King can move easily.It is big and can accommodate about approximately 400 people inside.

    2. Tenekwetche Sop

      Hi Busuulwa, I don’t really undestand your point about “in my country, many people are ignorant about the value of Land and ecosystems”. Could you please clarify?

    3. Charles Siantimba

      The value of land is very cardinal and everyone must take keen interest into issues of land.Surely speaking there can never be independent without land.The pride of every human being is land ownership.Without land then you are a refugee for lack of better term in your own country.Just like explained earlier before ,if you look at the Lozi people of Western Province of Zambia,they treasure so much the issue of land especially the flood plains.They are very radical and ready to die for this piece of land which was handed down to them by their fore fathers

    4. Yvonne

      I agree with you. I have leaved in Uganda for 5 years and must say that was the most beautiful and fertile land i have ever seen. Very green through out every season! Indeed, it is the pearl of Africa. To maintain it, sustainability must prevail and by so doing, one never go wrong for it will definitely yield fruits.

    5. Moses Kazungu

      Dear Busuulwa, Thank you for your insights. However, for me I would think that NOT so many people may not not know the value of land . In fact in many parts of Uganda people appreciate the value of land. The issue, per say, would be poor agricultural methods and over use of land as the only source of production especially in the rural areas. This may course of ecosystem damage. Thank you.

    1. Natty Nattoye KPAI

      I would like to join Aljosa Zavisci. The online course is quiet good. But, having a report dealing with pratical or real cases done by expert about valuating land will be very helpful for us.

      1. Ali Salha

        I second that totally …. case studies and reporting of assessment of degradation will be an asset to this course including the informative materials.

  2. Jaime

    Totally agree, for example in my country i have seen people against rates for comsumption of water, arguing that the bible says water is a present from God to human being, an because that it has to be free. But the thing is they do not take care of water resource.

  3. Radhika Rani Ch

    I agree. If the associated benefits such as ecosystem services are taken into account the value of land is much higher than what we assume. Investment on land must be based on this.


    1. Brighton Austin Chunga

      Well, I think the benefits of land and perhaps more precisely the ecosystem services, are not generally understood to many people. The result is the degradation we have all seen in many countries, especially developing countries. There are several factors to the degradation of land resources, but without doubt, ignorance is one of them. However, on the same, I think much as some of us know the value, the information has not been shared across! I think issues of land conservation and consequences of degrading activities should be well shared with everyone! As Busisiwa and Martin have pointed out, its a pity that forests and sometimes even wetlands and marshes are farmed? Later then we complain of many repercussions of such acts when there are no more forests and wetlands!

  4. Peter Rabus

    I am (still) asking myself how the mentioned models define the monetary value of abstract benefits (like religion, recreation etc.) of a person / community. Isn’t it that every person has its own definition how much a piece of land is worth for someone, depending on his / her status within society etc.? How is this point then taking into account wehn doing a cost-benefit analysis?

    1. Gertrude Ngabirano

      I agree with you Peter, the value of same piece of land will have a different value depending on the who is attaching the value. eg if the land is my ancestral land, I will attach a higher value to it than say a government valuer trying to compensate and move me in order to build a road.

      1. AnaRiza Mendoza

        You are right Gertrude. The value of a land does not depend only on its monetary or area equivalent. Most of the time, the “sentimental” value attached to it is always much higher than any monetary amount. The value of a land is linked to what we believe in, to our cultural practices and traditions.

  5. Radhika Rani Ch

    I think taking the monetary value of abstract benefits of a land to a person /community is a challenge as it is subjective . So it is better to limit ourselves to the ecosystem services it can provide.

    1. solomon Araya Debesay

      I agree that measuring value of land depending on the ecosystem services they provide is relatively convenient way in many cases, however, I really get challenged how this method can be utilized measuring the value of land in holy places, because I do know places in countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia where people visit those places and wash holy water there and get cured from very many problems they had. So, how can we handle the value of those lands then?

  6. Mira Wenzel

    I agree with you, Radhika. It is a huge challenge. Although there exist quite a lot of methods to measure the ecosystem services it is crucial to involve people living on the land. That might help to understand how they valuate their land in terms of religion/culture. And it might be possible to implement a more “subjective” view.

    1. solomon Araya Debesay

      I agree that measuring value of land depending on the ecosystem services they provide is very convenient way in many cases, however, I really get challenged how this method can be utilized measuring the value of land in holy places, because I do know places in countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia where people visit those places and wash holy water there and get cured from very many problems they had. So, how can we handle the value of those lands then?

    2. Diana Marcela Gomez

      I agree with you Mira. It’s very important to know what is the point of view of a community about their land. This considering that it is not only soil but a territory that is constructed through culture, traditions and customs in adittion to the relationship of this community whit ecosystem service that land provides them. For this reason is necessary to consider the concept of “socioecosistema” (Sorry, I don’t know the traslation of this word) aim to understand the relations between human and biodiversity, and how these parts benefit eachs.

      1. Dr. Emmanuelle Quillérou

        Dear all,

        You are raising very good points and questions. As you will read in the course script, value is NOT the same as price. You are right in saying that it is is inherently subjective and the economic approach described in this course does not try to change that but rather harness it..

        Cultural, sentimental, religious values are all part of the cultural ecosystem services (Rhadikha: limiting ourselves to ecosystem services makes us take cultural and religious services into account too! Please check the classification and definition of ecosystem services in more details to understand why the definition you adopted in your post was too restrictive).

        It is not always possible to estimate in monetary terms cultural or religious values; nor it is always appropriate to do so (for ethical reasons or others). There are a range of methods described in the course script (please see resource section) that can help you derive such a value. Which of these methods would you find most useful to derive values for cultural services, if people are willing to allocate a value to such services?

        Another point is that economics (as used in this course) takes the perspective of society as a whole, not of an individual. So an individual may value a site highly but not the society he/she lives in. The point here is to AGGREGATE all values across all individuals within society to derive the value to society as a whole for cost-benefit analysis. How would you go about determining the overall value from a range of individuals?

        Food for thoughts and discussion I hope. The point of this course – again as emphasised in the course script – is to give you tools you can use if relevant and appropriate. It may always be the case and you have to recognise this when conducting your study. But you also have to look for how this can help you out with what you are doing, as teh perspective taht will lead you to learn the most in this course.

        best wishes

  7. peter okiri

    The third world countries need to be supported by all means to increase the world food production. More people have to be trained how to conserve the great natural resource

    1. Tenekwetche Sop

      Hi Peter, increasing the world food production is not the proble. I think the world produces enough food to feed the 7 billion people on earth. The main problem is the distribution , where the food is most needed…That is my point. I wonder what you think!

      1. Brighton Austin Chunga

        I agree with Tenekwetche, I believe the world is able to produce enough! and in fact is producing enough! however they are no better way of food distribution on the basis of where is needed most! both at a large scale and small scale! You could have a localised hunger and yet in the same country or region some people have more than enough! and we waste!….

        I think we need to look at better food distribution and avoid waste!

        1. Ana Abigail

          Indeed, Tenekwetche and Brighton, more food than enough is produced in the world even in developing countries. Distribution could be seen as the problem, but at the end I think distribution is only regulated by economics, that is, law of supply and demand and those having the purchasing power.

          1. Ina Neher

            The problem of wasting is a good piont (about one third of the food is wasted) and I agree, that enough food is produced to feed the current population. But for the future might arise some problems – not only because of the still increasing population but also because of the need of sustainbale energy resources, such as bioenergy. Solutions for the provision of both (food and energy) must be found without overusing lands.

  8. Juanito Cristobal Jr.

    Many battled for land and even died for it. Information Education Campaign may be a great tool of informing the people specially in the third world country like ours so that they can value their land and will know why land being degraded (that is due to human intervention).

  9. Skandar

    Speciallye in the third world country, land is very devaluated. This is mainly due to the ignorance of the value of Land and ecosystems. It is also depends in many many other factors, as climate conditions and poverty. With low rainfall, agriculture is no longer profitable and is even no longer practiced, like in south of Tunisia (my country). Also, the lack of material means requires gents to leave their land. finally socio-economic changes in society have a direct effect on abun earth.

  10. Shirinagha Samim

    i want to share my general observation as follow to you :
    The main cause of land degradation in the micro level mostly in the rural areas, where the people are really depending in the natural resources, as a result of high level of dependency where natural resources leading a head to the chronic and obvious degradation biologically and other elements , so utilization of resources without any management and rehabilitation plan make reinforced the degradation towards the worst situations and the people are losing day to day their very important resources which were sustain their livelihood system and stabilized their living system in that particular rural areas ,also the poorest people in countries such as Afghanistan are not paying attention on their family planning they have numbers of children ;these explosion of generation bring more pressure on natural resources, often communities have been seen with adoption of bad practices,mostly those particular communities are living with high level of population , they did land conversion and they converted the pasture land into the arable ,they did ploughing in a very steps land as consequence soil erosion decreased and the land slowly goes directly to the high level of degradation .
    So in such as cases the alternative livelihoods may can be an option to protect and stop land degradation , this will not may obtained without contribution and efforts of policy maker at all level , gov , privet sectors etc .

    1. Dr. Emmanuelle Quillérou

      Hi Shirinagha,

      Thanks for these excellent points! There is scientific evidence of the opposite too. In some cases, the poor can either maintain their land in a sustainable way because they depend closely on it for survival; and in other cases as the one you described, they tend to be forced to let it degrade for their survival. ZEF and IFPRI have done some work on this if I remember well, you could try and find out cases illustrating both sides of this argument and post them in the MOOC!

      Best wishes

  11. Mohd Khawlie

    Valuing land should be split into different contexts: 1. Real estate; 2. Ecological; 3. Socio-economic
    This way it can be saved, preserved when needed, or sold away at a fair cost. The 2nd & 3rd contexts cost will be deducted as some sort of tax for rehabilitation & conservation… at site or somewhere else.

  12. SOUMANA Idrissa

    I am also agree with you, we can not give a value to land like goods, but giving the value of land by involving local communities can help to preserve ecosystem service.

  13. arturo orozco chavira

    El valor de la tierra, va en función de que los poseedores de la tierra, sepan que es un recurso que es para sus futuras generaciones y con eso hacer actividades tendientes a incrementar la producción de la tierra desde un punto de vista sustentable y que las políticas publicas tiendan a esa producción y que los países pueden tener ese valor agregado.

  14. arturo orozco chavira

    The value of land is a function of the landholders, know that it is a resource for future generations and that doing activities to increase production of the earth from a sustainable point of view and that public policies tend to this production and that countries can have that added value.

  15. Clemens Felix Olbrich

    I am planning on writing my Master´s thesis on the economic costs of land degradation on a case study in Tanzania. Therefore I hope will have a deeper dive into this methodology in order for me to understand the methodology better.


    The land to which I refer is in the state of Durango Mexico , is a state in northern Iraq , and more specifically I mean a semi-arid region of my state where there have been problems of degradation due to wind erosion is known locally as plains region , in the region the plains in the state of Durango comprising 4 municipalities that are Guadalupe Victoria, Panuco crowned , White Rock and Cuencame , is a vast agricultural region temporarily , in which beans are mainly grown temporary , having a semi-arid climate with summer rains but with little preccipitacion characterized as follows : Part or semi -arid north : Bsh . semi – dry and warm south or Media Part plains : BSLK . Semi – dry templado.4Temperatura average : 21.1 ° C 4Precipitación annual average : 244 mm Extension territorial Municipality: 4797.6 km ² Average Annual Evaporation: 20.37 mm Population density: 7.26 inhab / km ² prevailing wind . Southeastward moderate rate of 2.1 to 6 m / s in addition to seasonally occur during the rainy season , a considerable production being obtained this important region for producing this important legume , which forms the basis of the power of Mexicans , however to be a broad plain in the Mexican highlands in northern Mexico has serious problems of soil degradation due to the problem of erosion by wind and as lost consequences floor doing this it diminishes the topsoil for crops this important natural resource .

  17. Azhar Abbas

    I think this is a good idea to have an understanding of value of land like the value of all other natural resources on earth. One wonders, sometimes, that how we must consider the degradation of land due to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes?


      Majority of small and marginal farmers in country side of India are having strong bonds on their piece of land. They feel that agriculture feeds not only their family members but also biodiversity of their village. Thus contributing to sound village ecosystem. Therefore average landholding farmers never think about their land degradation economics.


  18. kenia Zavaleta cruz

    En el Estado en donde me encuentra que es Morelos, una tierra en donde se ha luchado para que los campesinos sigan con sus tierra desde la revolución. sin embargo los gobiernos les han dado todo a los campesinos para cultivar sus tierras, pero no han generado la cultura de regresar a la tierra toda la degradación para los cultivos no agrícolas como es el pasto o la rosa entre otros, en donde se desgasta la tierra por la forma de sembrarla.

  19. Antonia Corinthia Crisanta Naz

    The six steps plus 1 will need to be done by a multi-disciplinary team. This means that physical and social scientists, economists and stakeholders need to work together more closely in order to be able to estimate the economic benefits and costs of actions regarding land degradation or the other way around, sustainable land management. This will also entail gathering data in the form that will be useful to the analysis.

  20. Henry Sibanda

    In the Zimbabwean context land is something that people are even prepared to die for, this odeology fuelled the war of independence. Hence the six steps for valuing land might even run short because each person when asked will have his or her own value of land. The value of land has to be looked at from even the perspective of the dead or the ancestral spirits.


    Payments for environmental services (also known as payments for ecosystem services or PES), are payments to farmers or landowners who have agreed to take certain actions to manage their land or watersheds to provide an ecological service. As the payments provide incentives to land owners and managers, PES is a market-based mechanism, similar to subsidies and taxes, to encourage the conservation of natural resources.

  22. Marcos Hernández

    Considero que uno de los factores que más influyen en la degradación de la tierra en México es originado por la cultura de posesión de tierra, todos quieren tener tierra, la mayor cantidad posible, sin importar si esa tierra es desarrollada de forma adecuada para la agricultura o la ganadería.
    Una gran cantidad de campesinos reciben apoyos del Gobierno Federal cuando sus cultivos se ven afectados por algún fenómeno meteorológico o sequías; sin embargo no existe un seguimiento a el uso adecuado de la tierra y en algunos casos los agricultores dejan caer sus cultivos para poder recibir estos apoyos del Gobierno Federal.
    La tierra en México es para quien la trabaja…. son muchos quien tiene tierra pero no la trabajan

  23. Ricardo

    En México existen diversos problemas con respecto a la degradación de la tierra, principalmente dados por una mala planeación administrativa de los recursos, además de la sobreestimación de los montos reales de Restauración de la misma. Además de los problemas que se tienen actualmente con el cambios de uso de suelo de manera espontánea y sin registro legal alguno, la marginación que tienen los habitantes que poseen las tierras degradadas les produce un nulo interés por recuperarlas, pues en muchos de los casos aquellas personas viven de lo que cosechan, y algunas otras viven con lo poco que pueden ganar día a día. En resumen, la degradación del suelo en México está dada por malos planteamientos políticos, y la sobreestimación de los montos y esfuerzo necesarios para la Restauración del suelo.

  24. AnaRiza Mendoza

    The economic benefits and cost of action would differ from land to land, country to country, location to location including cultural, social and religious patterns. The courses of actions would depend on how the affected areas and groups/individuals will respond. It is always important to start with the grassroots.

  25. Wisit Ngamsom

    I wonder that in step 6 Cost – Benefit analysis and decision making. to draw the attention of policy makers the cost/benefit of sustainable land management option (SLM options) should be analyzed but which are suitable SLM options to rehabilitate land degradation need more time to identify and study as adoption of SLM in the area is one challenge; also the result or benefit of land degradation rehabilitation could not be seen in a short period of time. It might take at least 5 years or more to visualize the result of SLM. So, I think it is not easy task to measure the benefit of selected SLM in a short time scale when studying ELD.

  26. Hailu Tefera

    I agree with you that SLM option is the only to ensure sustainable benefits of land. The problem we see in developing coutries like ethiopia where the population is dramatically growing may be against this principle. It is also a challenge for house holds to focuss on SLM approach who want to get imediate benefits from the small plots of land they have. So my sugestion is to promote SLM approach however we need to be sure that small holder farmers are getting something out of which to feed their families.

  27. Yvonne

    With the enactment of the new Constitution and the adoption of the National Land Policy, most of the problems associated with land in Kenya will hopefully begin to be resolved. The constitution classifies land into public, private and community and points out that all land in Kenya belongs to the people collectively as a nation, communities and individuals.

    The practice of illegal and irregular allocation intensified in the late 1980s and reached the peak in 1990s as land was not used for development but for political reward and for speculation pure poses where allotees later sold it to prospective developers.The issuing of letters of allotment to beneficiaries of public land fuelled the selling and buying of such plots, creating a vibrant market which took place pursuant to consents illegally given by the Commissioner for Lands.

    Interestingly, some of the people who gave out public land did not have the authority to do so. Such people included chiefs, District Officers, District Commissioners as well as Provincial Commissioners and Members of Parliament.

    Grabbing of public land led to resistance and protests by outraged residents. Grabbers also resorted to the use of force at times using the police to protect them and their land.

    There have been attempts to fight land grabbing by non-governmental organisation and parliamentary Watchdog committees, such as Public Accounts Committee and Parliamentary Select Committee on Corruption.

  28. Mohd Khawlie

    For “value/price” of land & the externalities/internalities… quite often, “unforeseen” conditions impose themselves putting an added condition (if not stress) on the land, that, according to the nature of that condition could lead to positive or negative effect. Such conditions could be security or instability… or development projects in near-by areas. Moreover, it also happens that the general socio-economic conditions in a country could affect the “value/price” as well in not very prdictive nature. These conditions do lead to land loss & deterioration.

  29. Andualem Belay Ali

    Hello everyone

    I wonder that the boundaries between the regulating services and supporting services of the ecosystem are some what blurred. I think they are interconnected in many ways. It seems challenging and confusing to categorize some benefits either to regulating or supporting services.As well it may result in double counting. What could be the problem if supporting services are incorporated with in the regulating services’category?


    Mr. Mohd Khawlie explained present scenario of loss of land and degradation. Due to soaring price of productive agriculture lands in surrounding villages of town/growth centres/cities farmers are preferring to dispose their life saving productive asset. This act causing irreparable loss to village ecosystem.

    -L. Surya Narayana Reddy

  31. Ibrahim AlSaihati

    The degradation of lands in the third world is due to the lack of awareness and education. If we do not have education, we would not be able to attend this course. People should have better awareness about the real value of land and environment. Another reason is the increase of population in the third world; especially, comparing to the limited increase of population in the developed countries. This results in consuming a lot of natural resources and energy. This,also, requires building more power plants, desalination plants. These facilities require more electricity, gas and energy. The environment and the ecosystem will pay for these changes and requirements. Another reason is represented at the cheap labor that come from foreign countries. This factor add more weight and consume more energy and other necessities. The governments, institutes and societies can do a lot to raise people awareness and improve their situations.

  32. Karla Elizabeth Segura Millán Rivas

    Indeed, sometimes it has to do with the culture of people, their background, their education. Sometimes even if a piece of land is extremely valuable for their owner they might not be aware of inappropiate practices. Such is the case of certain farmers in Southern Mexico who in order to grow their crops they burn the rainforests and valuable jungles. You can see the constant smoke in the horizon which is heart breaking but they are not willing to change their methods.

    In other cases though, people are willing to learn better ways to grow food without harming the environment. Such is the case of people from native tribes living in Northern Mexico. I had the opportunity to travel to a small village with a group of students to do social service years ago to help a family build a biointensive orchard. So many people wanted to learn to créate their own, using organic inputs.

    In other cases, institutions provide people with services and technologies that are not sustainable and affect the land in the long run.

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