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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.


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 resource base.

Limited alternative livelihood strategies
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.

Land reform, 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 dryland areas.

Capacity constraints
While 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 lacking.

Inadequate knowledge on biodiversity and drylands Ecosystem Goods and Services
Currently there 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 inappropriate.

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.






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