The initiative is thus emerging as a knowledge brokering hub for the economics of land degradation. ELD has initiated a number of economic research projects on a global, regional and national level. A number of these confirm that it pays to invest in sustainable land management, since the economic losses due to land degradation and a lack of action are enormous. Alone the annual loss of income caused by desertification is estimated at about 49 billion US dollars. Indirect costs due to forced migration, sickness or famine go far beyond this figure.  

Satisfactory economic returns (from 12 to 40 %) have been cited for a number of projects in this field, including soil and water conservation (Niger), farmer-managed irrigation (Mali), forest management (Tanzania), and farmer-to-farmer extension (Ethiopia). Indeed, returns of over 40 per cent are on record for small-scale valley bottom irrigation in northern Nigeria and Niger. Niger loses approximately 8 per cent of its gross domestic product to overgrazing and excessive salinity in rice paddy fields, yet steps to combat these processes would only require a quarter of the costs incurred.