Key messages

  • Drylands cover 6.1 billion hectares, making up 41 % of the Earth’s land surface, characterized by water scarcity. They cover more than 100 countries across regions and are the basis for livelihoods of more than 2 billion people.
  • Trees and forests in drylands generate a wealth of environmental services, they provide habitats for biodiversity, protect against water and wind erosion and desertification, help water infiltrate soils and contribute to soil fertility.
  • Trees and forests in drylands help increase the resilience of landscapes and communities in the face of climate change.
  • Drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forests (18% of the global drylands area and 27% of the global forest area), 1.8 billion of grasslands (31% of the global dryland area), 0.86 billion hectares of cropland (14% of the global dryland area). 
  • Trees are present on 1.9 billion ha of the world’s drylands.
  • Land degradation in drylands, commonly referred to as desertification, almost always begins with the removal and degradation of vegetation including forests and grasslands.
  • In Africa, drylands (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid) comprise 43 % of the continent’s land area, 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.
  • The long-term sustainability of dryland forests is in jeopardy due to population increase, growing demand for natural resources, poverty, social conflicts, lack of market opportunities and technical capacity, lack of appropriate policies, governance and investments and lack of integration among different sectors.
  • Climate change affects dryland forests and people as it exacerbates all these negative human-related factors.


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 More videos


Restoration in Action Against Desertification This publication supports processes related to rural communities’ resilience in implementing land restoration of the Great Green Wall Programme on the ground. It serves a dual purpose of consolidating biophysical operations and socio-economic assessments, and is mainly built on five-year interventions and practical experiences gathered through Action Against Desertification. [more]
Trees, forests and land use in drylands: the first global assessment This publication presents the results of the first global assessment of trees, forests and land use in these lands. The assessment breaks new methodological ground: it relies on the visual interpreation of freely available satellite images, carried out by more than 200 experts in a series of regional workshops. [more]

More publications

Press releases and editorials

Ambitious $104 million program targets land degradation in Africa and Central Asian countries The global launch of a $104 million initiative signals an ambitious effort by a range of partners to safeguard drylands in the context of climate change, fragile ecosystems, biodiversity loss, and deforestation in 11 African and Central Asian countries. [more]
Drylands: much more than their name suggests When you think of drylands, do you think of miles of empty, barren desert? Well, think again! Drylands are actually a unique type of ecosystem characterised by water scarcity and low precipitation. [more]
Why We Need a “New Normal” for Production and Consumption People are consuming more than ever. Our choices are having an unprecedented impact on the environment. The jeans, skirts or suits we wear, the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics we use, the food and drink we consume – all of these products have an impact, to varying degrees, on the environment. [more]

More press releases

Expert interviews

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Interivew with FAO's Nora Berrahmouni on Drylands: forests and land use 
TARGET Zero Hunger podcase: Remote sensing and agriculture
"Recipes" exist to combat desertification


last updated:  Thursday, February 25, 2021