The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative has launched this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the economics of land, hosted by Global Campus 21®. Find out more:
Land Degradation and its Causes
Degradation means the reduction or loss in biological or economic productivity. Land degradation is a serious global concern, especially as fertile soil is practically a non-renewable resource: it takes about 2000 years to generate about 10 centimeters of top soil. Furthermore, cultivated areas suitable for agriculture worldwide can only be expanded in limited areas. A recent study shows that land degradation has reduced the productivity of the world’s terrestrial surface by about 25% between the period 1981 – 2003. This stands in stark contrast to the need for an increase in agriculture produce before 2030 to meet the food demand of the growing world population.
Land degradation is mainly the result of land mismanagement, drought related famines, and misperceptions of plentiful food production, relatively cheap subsidized food, low land prices, and a non-sustainable use of energy and water resources. It is driven by anthropogenic activities like cutting down forests, overgrazing, monoculture, salinization, misuse of fertilizers and chemicals, or farming on sloping ground which leads to soil erosion.
Consequences of Land Degradation
The negative consequences of land degradation affect us all, directly or indirectly: food insecurity, reduced availability of clean water, increased vulnerability to climate change, biodiversity loss and much more. It is appraised that 1.5 billion people in all parts of the world are already directly affected through reduced income or food security, particularly the rural poor.
On a global scale, around 10 to 20% of drylands and 24% of the world´s usable lands are degraded. This is equivalent to twice the size of Russia. The annual economic losses due to deforestation and land degradation are estimated at 1.5-3.4 trillion Euro in 2008, equaling 3.3%-7.5% of the global GDP in 2008.
Means for Prevention
The good news is that there are clear economic and environmental actions that can prevent or even reverse land degradation. Environmental actions can be reforestation, afforestation, and especially the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices. Economic instruments include payments for ecosystem services, subsidies, taxes, voluntary payments for environmental conservation, and access to micro-finance and credit. Just by the adoption of sustainable land management up to 2.3 billion additional tonnes of crop production per year could be delivered.
The Value of Soil
Land's economic value is chronically undervalued and commonly determined by immediate agricultural or forestry market values. In the long-term, however, the costs of taking action to prevent or reverse land degradation are generally less than the benefits that can be obtained for investing in and applying sustainable land management practices. However even though the scientific rationale for adopting sustainable land management is now well established, there is a noticeable lack of adoption of such practices.
Facilitating change requires adaptations to legal, social, and policy-focused contexts that favor sustainable land management. In spite of the negative effects of land degradation, decision makers continue to discount the impact. That is why there is a need for concise data to emphasize the social and economic costs of land degradation and the benefits of greater investment in land based productivity.
About the ELD Initiative
The ELD Initiative is a platform for stakeholders from the private sector, science and the policy sector aiming at a global study on the economic benefits of land and land based ecosystems.
It has been founded in December 2010, when representatives of more than 30 organizations, including governments, international organizations and scientific institutions met in Bonn. The funders declared their willingness to create a partnership and become involved in the initiative to support rural development, food security and sustainable land management. The initiative itself has been officially launched on 20 September, 2011.
Following the first and second ELD scientific meetings held in 2012 in London and Brussels, the ELD methodology, data base and working process for the four working groups have been established. Throughout the year 2013 ELD presented interim results and reports from the work of the initiative at a number of international key events.Partners
Current political partners include the the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Commission (EU), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Korea Forest Service. Scientific partners are the United Nations University Institute for Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the Global Mechanism (GM), and the Center for Development Research (ZEF).
The initiative is open to contributions from governments, the private sector, multilateral and bilateral donors, foundations and development organizations and encourages participation of NGOs, international and local businesses, farmers, agricultural associations, universities and research institutions.
Goals of the Initiative
The initiative highlights the potential benefits derived from adopting sustainable land management (SLM) practices and seeks to establish global awareness for analysis of the economics of land degradation. The goal of the ELD Initiative is to provide a methodology for total economic valuation that is both locally applicable and globally relevant, thus enabling informed decision-makers to strengthen sustainable rural development and ensuring global food, energy and water security. In addition, reliable data and practical examples provide material for communicating the ELD-message to different stakeholder groups. Reports will be produced, based on the state of the art research provided by a world-wide network of researchers and practitioners. Furthermore, the ELD Initiative incorporates capacity building activities into its projects to ensure that qualified personnel are available and present in affected countries. The implementation of the ELD MOOC is a first means towards achieving this goal.
Target Groups of the Initiative
Scientific communities: The scientific communities form a vital part of the target audience as the main generators of scientific knowledge that provide reliable data and application oriented tools.
Political Decision makers: The ELD Initiative intends to provide political decision makers with economically based accurate and suitable information on the greater benefits of practicing sustainable land management. This information is to enable them to make informed decisions and take appropriate measures on matters such as reform of harmful subsidies, development of payments for ecosystem services, stronger environmental liability and increased financing for sustainable land management.
Private Sector: ELD is intended to benefit the private sector by identifying business investment opportunities and incentives linked to the preservation and sustainable management of land services, and promote new tools for measuring and reporting their impacts. This audience includes private organizations and bodies, who share a similar thematic interest with the initiative, directly such as enterprises active in the agro-sector, timber and food industries or indirectly such as the financial and insurance service industry.
Governance Structure of the Initiative
Download here for full view: ELD Organigram
The Global Campus 21® is the GIZ platform for worldwide knowledge sharing and learning. The name Global Campus 21 is derived from the “global learning” idea and inspired by the Agenda 21, the action plan of the United Nations for sustainable development, adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Its goal is to facilitate worldwide learning and communicating without boundaries.
On its public pages the Global Campus 21 provides information on current events, projects and partners. In the password-protected personal space each user gets access to the courses and working groups he or she participates in. Furthermore the user can see the profiles of all the other GC21-users and get in touch with them. Forums and demo-classes allow participants first insights into how the Global Campus 21 works.
GIZ and partner organisations use the Global Campus 21 for the training of experts and executives of its partner institutions and countries. Numerous learning and networking opportunities support the participants in their qualification process and their daily work, regardless of time and space.
The ELD MOOC utilizes the environment of the Global Campus 21 and its infrastructure. Therefore, participants need to create an account for the Global Campus 21 in order to enroll for the MOOC.
The MOOC will establish Global Campus 21, together with all the systems and experts it encompasses, as a new important platform for the use of MOOCs in international capacity development and in projects for sustainable development cooperation.
The MOOC Concept
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. A recent trend in e-education, MOOCs are courses that enable an unlimited amount of users to freely access academic material online. In addition to from traditional learning material, MOOCs allow for interactive learning and community building in forums, live sessions and online discussions.
MOOCs differ according to the course material and the ultimate goal of the MOOC creators. There are cMOOCs and xMOOCS, and everything in between. They all, however, rely on connectivism: learning through digital networking and online-cooperation.
The ELD MOOC Concept
This MOOC is based on research and capacity building expertise from the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), the GIZ Global Campus 21, and other partner organisations involved in the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative (ELD).
This ELD MOOC expects participants to be proactive in the acquisition of knowledge. Participants will be grouped into teams where they'll be able to discuss complex themes and get support from their peers. They'll work closely with material and media from the web, social and new media, and Web 2.0. Teams should make use of the interactive tools found in the learning rooms. They'll also have the opportunity to ask renowned tutors and moderators any questions they may have, that cannot be answered by other team members. Together, the co-creation of solutions will be facilitated throughout this course. Information and idea sharing in mixed working groups will also give participants vital moderation skills. Although the ELD-MOOC produces a wide range of material available to the public, some sections are only available to registered participants.
Tutors will serve as professional learning guides by initiating, inspiring and supporting the learning process rather than acting as a traditional teacher.
Learning Goals of the MOOC
The ELD MOOC shows participants how to assess the economic benefits of land in order to prevent land degradation. Course participants will learn economic approaches and methods explicitly designed to solve real world problems. Upon completion, they'll have gained practical knowledge and will have become a part of an established, practicing community, with which they might undertake future endeavors in this field. The MOOC itself is intended to support the ELD Initiative and increase the linkages between ELD partners.
At the end of the course, participants will be able to
- Explain why economic analysis can be a useful tool for decision-makers
- Describe the steps behind each valuation method, underlying assumptions and methodological and empirical limitations
- Identify a suitable method for valuation of a non-marketed good or service
- Critically assess the choice of valuation method, its application and results for an existing valuation study
- Run simple cost-benefit-analyses
- Develop simple research designs for economic assessments
The MOOC's Structure
The MOOC will run for eleven weeks, each week focusing on a key central question. The course consists of three main phases:
- Introduction to the Value of Land
- The Total Value of Your Ecosystems
- Co-Creation: Project Appraisal
The following fundamental questions and issues will be addressed, with inputs and contributions from course participants and expert tutors:
- Week 1 (March 2-8): What is the value of your land?
- Week 2 (March 9-15): Appreciating the economic value of ecosystems - What services does your ecosystem provide?
- Week 3 (March 16-22): Welfare - Who benefits from using the ecosystem?
- Week 4 (March 23-29): Use-/Non-Use-Values - What is the total value of your land?
- Week 5 (March 30-April 5): Project Scenarios - Developing a scenario for land improvement to better the livelihood of people
- Week 6 (April 6-April 12): Research Design - Choosing a method; planning a simple research design
- Week 7 (April 13-April 19): Research - Applying the research design
- Week 8 (April 20-April 26): Research - Conducting research
- Week 9 (April 27-May 3): Cost-Benefit-Analysis - Writing the cost-benefit-analysis
- Week 10 (May 4 - May 10): Preparing Final Team Project
- Week 11 (May 11 - May 17): Presenting project results, community-building, wrap-up
There are a number of assignments which will need to be completed for certification. Aside from the first assignment, all assignments are group assignments. Participants will be able to choose their team according to their interests. It is possible to switch to another team after week 4 and week 6. The assignments are due as follows:
- Assignment 1: The value of your land - March 8
- Assignment 2: Your ecosystem's services - March 22
- Assignment 3: The total value of your ecosystem - March 29
- Assignment 4: Your land, an alternative scenario and a research plan - April 12
- Assignment 5: The results of your research - April 26
- Final team project: A cost-benefit analysis for your land scenario - May 9.