Land degradation and land conservation:

Incentives and policies


My research on incentives for land degradation and land conservation aims to understand the behaviour of rural land users and to assess the possibilities to introduce policies that can lead to more sustainable land management while taking care of the welfare needs of poor rural people. Some of the issues analysed include:


  • Why do poor peasant households under-invest in conservation?
  • Are they too poor to invest?
  • Do they lack access to suitable technologies?
  • Is underinvestment caused by tenure insecurity?
  • Is underinvestment caused by market imperfections?
  • How real is the poverty-environment trap?
  • What policies can enhance investment incentives and contribute to poverty reduction?

Recent publications:


Holden, S. T. (2019). Economics of Farm Input Subsidies in Africa. Annual Review of Resource Economics, doi: 10.1146/annurev-resource-100518-094002. Link


Katengeza, S., Holden, S. T. and Fischer, M. (2019). Use of Integrated Soil Fertility Management Technologies in Malawi: Impact of Dry Spells Exposure. Ecological Economics, 156 (February): 134-152. Link


Holden, S. T. (2018). Fertilizer and Sustainable Intensification in Sub-Saharan Africa. Global Food Security 18, 20-26. Link


Fisher, M., Holden, S. T., Thierfelder, C., Katengeza, S. P. (2018). Awareness and adoption of conservation agriculture in Malawi: what difference can farmer-to-farmer extension make? International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 1-16. Link Doi: 10.1080/14735903.2018.1472411.


Holden, S. T., Fisher, M., Katengeza, S., Thierfelder, C. (2018). Can Lead Farmers Reveal the Adoption Potential of Conservation Agriculture? The Case of Malawi. Land Use Policy 76C, 113-123. Link


Holden, S. T. and Tilahun, M. (2018). The importance of Ostrom's design principles: Youth group performance in Northern Ethiopia. World Development 104: 10-30. Link


Holden, S. T., Shiferaw, B. and Pender, J. (2006). Policies for Poverty Reduction, Sustainable Land Management and Food Security  – A Bio-economic Model with Market Imperfections.  In J. Pender, F. Place and S. Ehui (eds.), Strategies for Sustainable Land Management in the East African Highlands. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D. C. Book


Holden, S. T., Shiferaw, B. and Pender, J. (2005). Policy Analysis for Sustainable Land Management and Food Security – A Bio-economic Model with Market Imperfections. Research Report 140. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington D. C. Abstract and Full Report.


Holden, S. T. and Shiferaw, B. (2004). Land Degradation, Drought and Food Security in a Less-favoured Area in the Ethiopian Highlands: A Bio-economic Model with Market Imperfections. Agricultural Economics 30 (1): 31-49. Abstract


Holden, S. T., Barrett, C. and Hagos, F. (2006). Food-for-Work for Poverty Reduction and Promotion of Sustainable Land Use: Can it Work? Environment and Development Economics 11, 15-38. Abstract.


Holden, S. T., Shiferaw, B. and Pender, J. (2004). Non-farm Income, Household Welfare and Sustainable Land Management in a Less-favoured Area in the Ethiopian Highlands. Food Policy 29, 369-392. Abstract


Holden S. T., Benin, S., Shiferaw, B. and Pender, J. (2003). Tree Planting for Poverty Reduction in Less-Favoured Areas of the Ethiopian Highlands. Small-scale Forest Economics, Management and Policy 2 (1): 63-80. Abstract


Earlier studies:


Holden S. T., Shiferaw, B. and Pender, J. (2001). Market Imperfections and Land Productivity in the Ethiopian Highlands. Journal of Agricultural Economics 52 (3): 62-79. Abstract


Shiferaw, B. and  Holden, S. T. (2001). Farm Level Benefits to Investments for Mitigating Land Degradation: Empirical Evidence from Ethiopia. Environment and Development Economics 6: 335-358. Abstract


Shiferaw, B. and Holden, S. T. (2000). Policy Instruments for Sustainable Land Management: The Case of Highland Smallholders in Ethiopia. Agricultural Economics 22: 217-232. Abstract


Shiferaw, B. and Holden, S. T.  (1999). Soil Erosion and Smallholders’ Conservation Decisions in the Highlands of Ethiopia. World Development 27(4): 739-752. Abstract


Holden, S. T. and Sankhayan, P. (1998). Population Pressure, Agricultural Change and Environmental Degradation in the Western Himalayan Region of India. Forum for Development Studies 2: 271-300.


Holden, S. T., Shiferaw, B. and Wik, M.(1998). Poverty, Market Imperfections, and Time Preferences: Of Relevance for Environmental Policy? Environment and Development Economics 3: 105-130. Abstract. Link


Shiferaw, B. and Holden, S. T.(1998). Resource Degradation and Adoption of Land Conservation Technologies in the Ethiopian Highlands: A Case Study in Andit Tid, North Shewa. Agricultural Economics 18: 233-247. Abstract


Shiferaw, B. and Holden, S. T. (1997). Peasant Agriculture and Land Degradation in Ethiopia. Forum for Development Studies 2, 277-306.

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