10 African countries will put a price on 'natural capital'

10 African countries will put a price on 'natural capital'

Those mangroves aren't just nice-looking - they could be delivering serious value to nearby farms just by staying put. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/aramisfirefly/3306656930/in/photostream/">Matthew Stewart (Flickr)</a>
Those mangroves aren't just nice-looking - they could be delivering serious value to nearby farms just by staying put. Photo: Matthew Stewart (Flickr)

A plot of mangroves could be harvested for $850, then the land sold for $9,000 to a shrimp farmer. Or, alternatively, it could stay standing and offer $16,000 worth of flood protection to everyone nearby.

The world's economy has no trouble measuring option A. A new pact between 10 African nations will move the world closer to measuring option B.

SciDev.net reported Friday that the new 'Gaborone Declaration' signed last month among Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania will "measure the full value of forests, coral reefs, grasslands and other natural resources and ecosystems" as part of the countries' "national and corporate planning and reporting policies," reporting their progress annually.

In the world's poorest countries, the value of natural resources adds up to more than a third of total wealth, the World Bank figured in a report released this month. But when we fail to measure this value, it's the poorest, who often work in agriculture and extraction, whose wealth is sold short.

Measuring the value of nature will create winners and losers, and not everyone will agree on how to do it. But taking steps toward a global consensus in the area is simply smart economics.

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