Humans and natural forces are taking a heavy toll on the earth’s surface. Arid and humid lands are drying up. Water supplies are running out. Soil is losing its nutrients. Desertification, deforestation, overgrazing, salinization, and soil erosion are increasing—especially in developing countries. As a result, the earth’s ecosystem services, from fertile soil to freshwater streams, are diminishing fast, with devastating results among the poor who heavily depend on these natural resources.
Some 42 percent of the 1.5 billion people who live on degraded lands are very poor people, many of whom make their living as farmers and therefore suffer from the loss of the earth’s productivity. The poor land users are caught in the vicious cycle of land degradation; they are trapped in poverty since they fail to invest in land improvement strategies that could provide them with increased incomes.
IFPRI researchers look at land degradation from multiple angles. To provide empirical evidence for the design of policies and strategies that address land degradation, they investigate the underlying causes of land degradation. These include population density, poverty, government effectiveness, and others Researchers also estimate the overall economic and societal costs of degraded land—as well as the benefits of rehabilitating degraded lands or preventing land degradation. IFPRI additionally focuses its research on specific types of land degradation, such as desertification, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity. The studies are done at country or regional and global level.
Critical assets for the poor in developing countries are land-based resources that generate most of their income and subsistence goods.