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Economic Valuation of Land Crucial for African Development, Rio+20 Hears

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Land valuation was the topic of the first event held by the African Development Bank (AfDB) at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro.

The AfDB held the event, entitled “Economic Valuation of Land: An Approach to Advance Sustainable Development in the Context of a Green Economy”, in partnership with Global Mechanism on 14 June.

An expert panel discussed the economic valuation of land as an approach to advance sustainable development in the context of a green economy.

Co-chair Mr Aly Abou-Sabaa, who chairs the AfDB’s Coordinator Committee on Climate Change, emphasized the need to communicate the sense of urgency around economic valuation of land and encourage investment in Africa.  He said: “Sustainable land management is at the heart of green growth for the AfDB.”

His co-chair, Mr Simone Quatrani of Global Mechanism, noted increases in foreign direct investment in land acquisition as a “potential catalyst for the African green revolution,”  Mr John Soussan of Offering Sustainable Land-Use Options, stressed the economic case for investing in sustainable land management.

Responsible investment, in ecosystems like Africa’s especially, are needed immediately.  Mr Abou-Sabaa said:  “Africa has no choice but to contribute to land management.”

This not only implies sustainable management of natural resources, but also building resilience to the increased incidence of droughts, floods and desertification.  

Mr Abou-Sabaa added that the relative novelty of the concept of valuing ecosystems meant that a gradual approach in introducing it to key-stakeholders to ensure their buy-in.

Mr Quatrani listed appealing to this sense of urgency and demonstrating net economic benefits while emphasizing social, environmental and future values as effective ways to provide incentives and safeguards to stakeholders.

A principal consideration, and also a potential hindrance, for investors is a country’s political situation and its government’s involvement in securing sustainable investments.

Mr Timo Busch of ETH Zurich presented from the private sector’s point of view and underlined that point, adding that appropriate policy incentives should be explored for long-term investments.

IUCN’s Dr. Andrew Seid spoke about his organization’s recent experience in economic valuation and development.  He made similar points about political considerations, quoting examples such as the misuse of information.  He added that ensuring distribution and equity are very important factors in economic valuation.

Dr Elijah Phiri of the University of Zambia presented an initiative that had been launched in Zambia to assess the economic value of land and costs of land degradation.

He highlighted the contribution of land use to the economy including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, wetlands, and hydro-power generation.

He also stated that sustainable land management is not only key to national economies, but also contributes to national development and poverty reduction.  Sometimes governments and investors overlook this aspect, he said.  work on economic valuation of land for land resources in Zambia.

The economic valuation of land in Africa, done by the right people and institutions and with investment made for the right reasons, will be highly beneficial to economies across the continent and a significant contributor to its sustainable development.

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