Problems and challenges

The combination of increasing human pressure and environmental factors is causing a vicious circle of deforestation, fragmentation, degradation and desertification in drylands.
Main drivers:

  • Population increase. A constantly expanding population is adding pressure on drylands forests,exacerbating the existing desertification process in these areas. FAO estimates this will result in 135 million environmental refugees by 2020. Roughly 60 million from the poorest regions of sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Growing demand for nature resources. This creates stress on forests. Reducing the availability of forest goods and services further increases the vulnerability of forest-dependent people;
  • Poverty. Dryland forests can be a safety net for poverty alleviation. At the same time, poor people, who are heavily dependent on forests resources, tend to overexploit the available forest resources. This paradoxically undermines the ability of forests to preserve their role in poverty alleviation;
  • Social conflicts. In a situation of declining availability of natural resources and rapidly deteriorating living and health conditions, the outbreak of conflicts is a possible outcome. Growing desertification leads to migration flows, relocation of people and interactions between different ethnic groups. These events can result in a host of social problems, putting additional stress on scarce natural resources and increase the urgency of addressing conservation and sustainable forest management issues;
  • Lack of market opportunities. Forests and forest by-products market productions should be encouraged as an alternative way to generate a more stable and diversified source of income for local communities. Current market barriers, need for tailored-made marketing strategies and entrepreneurial skills, poor infrastructure and lack of adequate incentives continue to hinder the development of market opportunities for local communities and relevant stakeholders;
  • No recognition of the importance of dryland forests. Much more needs to be done to disseminate accurate information on the role and functions of forests and forestry in arid zones. To enable decision makers to formulate informed policies and encourage conservation and sustainable management of forests in drylands substantial investments are required;
  • Lack of appropriate policies, governance and investments.  Inadequate land use policies, i.e. perverse subsidies, poor governance and scarce attention to natural resources protection and sustainable use are other factors that lead to degradation and loss of drylands forests;
  • Lack of integration among different sectors. Forest management and conservation cannot be conceived in isolation from other land use systems, or without engaging local dwellers and the broader stakeholder community;
  • Lack of technical capacity. Additional technical capacity-building, research on dryland forests (characteristics, uniqueness, adaptability, extent, etc.) and sustainable measures for forests management and conservation are needed;
  • Climate change. Climate change is emerging as the major driving force behind many threats that dryland forests are faced with nowadays. Climate change is likely to magnify the effects of the dramatic transformations currently taking place and further exacerbate the influence of the above mentioned policy, technical and socio-economic drivers.

last updated:  Thursday, June 20, 2013