Key messages

  • Drylands make up 41.3% of the Earth’s land surface, cover more than 100 countries and are the basis for livelihoods of more than 2 billion people.
  • Land degradation in drylands, commonly referred to as desertification, almost always begins with the removal of vegetation and the destruction of forests.
  • Forests are central to drylands health and wealth. They work as soil stabilizer, a buffer zone against desertification and are ideal for protecting and improving the quality of soil.
  • In Africa, drylands (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid) comprise 43 % of the continent, and are inhabited by farmers, herders and pastoralists whose livelihoods heavily depend on the goods and services provided by forests, trees, shrublands, farmlands, and grazing lands.
  • In the Mediterranean, between 1992 and 2009, the area of arable land decreased by 7 million hectares (13 percent) in the northern Mediterranean countries and by 4 million hectares (9 percent) in the south-eastern Mediterranean countries. In the European coastal zone of the Mediterranean, about 300,000 km2 of land is undergoing desertification, affecting the livelihoods of 16.5 million people.
  • The long-term sustainability of dryland forests is in jeopardy due to population increase, growing demand for nature resources, poverty, social conflicts, lack of market opportunities and technical capacity, no recognition of the importance of dryland forests, lack of appropriate policies, governance and investments and lack of integration among different sectors. Climate change can also affect the process, by exacerbating all these negative human-related factors. 



Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel initiative The African Wall: An African partnership to tackle desertification and land degradation [more]
Forests and Climate Change Working Paper - 09 [more]
State of Mediterranean Forests 2013 Towards sustainable development in the Mediterranean: challenges to face [more]
Highlands and drylands. Mountains, a source of resilience in arid regions Dryland mountains are of great strategic value to regional and global development. They provide up to 90% of the freshwater supply to surrounding dry lowlands. More than a quarter of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and six out of eight Vavilov Centres of Diversity are found in dryland mountains. Yet these mountain regions are under increasing threat. Published by FAO, UNCCD, Mountain Partnership, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and CDE, with the support of an international group of experts, this publication presents the socio-economy and environment of dryland mountains, the current threats they face, and good practices in sustainable development. [more]
Fighting sand encroachment: lessons from Mauritania One of the main challenges of desertification is encroachment of moving sands, which has devastating environmental and socio-economic impacts. Mauritania, as one of the most severely affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has accumulated a great deal of experience in combating sand encroachment over the past several decades. This publication synthesizes the lessons learned, particularly in the implementation of a recently concluded project for rehabilitation and extension of the Nouakchott Green Belt, carried out by FAO and the Government of Mauritania with support from the Walloon Region of Belgium. [more]


"Recipes" exist to combat desertification
L'invité 26/02/2013 : Nora Berrahmouni, experte forestière à la FAO

The Arid zone forests team recommends:

Field projects

Acacia operation

In an attempt to reverse the process of desertification, FAO has stepped in with the Acacia project in Senegal. This project has involved the planting and managing of Acacia forests in arid lands while providing socio-economic benefits to local communities.

A total of 44 villages have benefited from the Acacia project and the project is also in operation in five more countries across the region. Based on its success, FAO is now in search of funding to roll the Acacia project out on a wider scale to re-green more of the land bordering the Sahara desert.

Rehabilitation of forest landscapes in Iran

Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative

last updated:  Friday, October 24, 2014