Drylands constitute more than 40% of the global land area and provide a wide range of fundamental ecosystem goods and services. They are home to nearly a third of the global population, about 2 billion in all, over 90% of whom live in developing countries.
Drylands degradation results from a combination of local drivers (droughts, inappropriate irrigation systems, deforestation, overgrazing, and poor land use practices), and global drivers (demography, agricultural policies or global climate change).
Conservative estimates of the extent of desertified drylands range from 10 to 20 percent while a much larger area is at risk.
Reversing desertification "inexpensive"
Says Dr. Thomas Schaaf of UNESCO: "Adopting new, alternative livelihoods is possible with supporting policies and knowledge, and yields income for local communities. It also increases the incentives for dryland communities to better preserve ecosystems around them."
And it need not involve great expense. An investment of only US $6.50 to purchase sewing machines for Bedouin women in Egypt, for example, produced a reported annual income of about US $700.
And, the report adds, when alternative livelihoods start to yield income, one of two results typically occur: traditional livelihoods are gradually replaced or funds are invested to improve land-based livelihoods, such that co-existence of both approaches can be maintained.
The report says producing change requires an enabling policy environment created by government. This policy reform needs to be directly informed by available scientific expertise on dryland management and should be guided by local successes.
It also requires local consultation and involvement in the design and testing of new practices to create a feeling of ownership among land managers and to tap into practical traditional experience and expertise.
|Contact: Terry Collins|
United Nations University