The world drylands are remarkable ecosystems, encompassing grasslands, agricultural lands, forests, and urban areas. They are characterized by their limited water supply, low and highly variable rainfall and recurrent droughts. In spite of that, drylands are home to nearly 2 billion people, of which many are livestock herders and small-scale farmers.
Dryland degradation continues to lead to impoverishment of farmers and pastoralists and has important consequences elsewhere, such as siltation of water bodies and the environmental impacts caused by displaced people. In addition to that, with the advent of modern technology, including sophisticated irrigation schemes, human activity is expanding more and more into the very dry and hyper-arid areas. To date, it has been estimated that approximately 70% of the total dryland area worldwide is affected by some form of desertification and land degradation, resulting from a variety of factors, including climatic variations and intensification of human activity.
The UNCCD , which is the major international policy framework on drylands management and combating desertification, provides to parties a clear call to address and integrate environmental and socioeconomic factors in dryland management.
SOUTHERN AFRICA'S DRYLANDS…
Are hyper-arid, arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas and
occupy a significant part of Southern Africa, representing 50-60%
of the land area of the region.
Occur in all countries in
the region with South Africa, Botswana and Namibia being the
most affected countries.
Accounting for 40% of the population
of the region, i.e. approximately 50 Million people with the
rural majority depending on the dry land ecosystem goods and
services for their livelihood.
Are aggravated by climate change
with the high annual mean rainfall variability adversely affecting
agricultural and other non-farm rural livelihoods upon which
the majority depend.
Drylands Issues and Challenges
Widespread Poverty and Social Inequity
Poverty is both a cause and consequence of environmental degradation
in the drylands of Southern Africa. Efforts to reduce the
poverty environment circle in the drylands states are hampered
by slow economic growth and development and a fragile natural
Limited alternative livelihood
Drylands ecosystems offer various opportunities of alternative
livelihoods, but lack of research, appropriate technologies
and knowledge and/or capacity to harness and market the goods
and services of drylands is limiting.
security of tenure and access to natural resources
Land tenure security and access to resources are critical
to the success of drylands ecosystem management. Land tenure
systems, which impose unequal access to and control of resources
for marginal populations, contributes to the degradation of
countries in the Region have ratified the UNCCD they generally
lack the capacity to fulfill their obligations under the Convention.
For example, financial and human resources are often lacking
to develop and implement programmes. Private sector participation
in environmental programmes is generally lacking and synergies
in the execution of Multilateral Environmental Agreements
that facilitates coherent and strategic implementation are
Inadequate knowledge on biodiversity and drylands
Ecosystem Goods and Services
is inadequate information on the status of biodiversity in
drylands, which is too general and ignores the differences
the various types, of dryland ecosystems (hyperarid, arid,
semi-arid and sub-humid). This has resulted in the development
of strategies and programmes that do not take into account
the unique characteristics of these eco-regions. There is
also insufficient knowledge on the value of dryland ecosystem
goods and services. Currently no institution is undertaking
work on generating this information, and without it, stakeholders
in the region will continue to design interventions that are
Ecological vulnerability of drylands
Drylands ecosystems are very vulnerable to overexploitation,
inappropriate land use practices and climate change. Desertification
and frequent droughts are threatening many areas of the sub
region. Vulnerability to climate change is a major issue,
and is likely to add only further incremental stress to ecosystems
already under pressure.
Low Profile of Dryland Issues on Political and
Economic Development Agenda
Dryland issues have
low priority on the political and economic development agenda
and are often isolated from mainstream national development
agendas and strategies. More often, drylands are considered
problem areas, warranting a small share of social services
and agricultural budgets and raising the political agenda
only at times of famine or civil strife.