Key messages

  • Drylands cover 6.1 billion hectares, making up 41 % of the Earth’s land surface, and 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 again water and wind erosion and desertification, help water infiltrate soils and contribute to soil fertility.
  • They 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.
  • An estimated 13.5 billion trees grow outside forests in the global drylands. Most of these are in grasslands (6.5 billion trees; 50%) and croplands (5.2 billion trees; 39 %) and 1 billion trees are on land classified as settlements.
  • Land degradation in drylands, commonly referred to as desertification, almost always begins with the removal and degradation of vegetation including forests and grasslands
  • 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.
  • 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, no recognition of the importance of dryland forests, 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.
  • Urgent action is needed to improve the management and restoration of drylands and their forests.


Expert interviews


Action Against Desertification - Monitoring and Evaluation Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) are essential to keep track of the progress made and to measure the bio‑physical and socio‑economic impact of the activities carried out under Action Against Desertification. M&E also helps Action Against Desertification deliver results by making sure that the objectives are clearly defined and achievable, that data collection is well planned and that data are used for decisionmaking and to continuously improve the programme. [more]
Action Against Desertification - Capacity Development Capacity development is at the heart of Action Against Desertification’s efforts to combat land degradation, desertification and drought. A capacity development strategy is in place to strengthen the capacities of individuals and organizations in sustainable land management and restoration, and to support the establishment of an enabling policy and legal environment at local, national, and regional level to increase the impact and ensure sustainability of activities carried out under Action Against Desertification. [more]
Action Against Desertification - Land Restoration Restoration activities led by FAO and its partners demonstrate that land degradation around the Sahara is not yet irreversible. Action Against Desertification promotes a restoration approach that places communities at the heart of restoration by putting scientific plant expertise at their service and focusing on the needs of communities for useful and native plant species and preferences for restoration in support of their livelihoods, mainly farming and cattle grazing. [more]
Action Against Desertification - Expanding Africa’s Great Green Wall Desertification and land degradation are very serious challenges. They lead to hunger and poverty, driving unemployment, forced migration and conflict, while amplifying climate risks as drought and floods. But recent successes show that these problems are not insurmountable. Bold action and investments in sustainable land management can boost food security, improve livelihoods and help people adapt to climate change. [more]
Building Africa’s Great Green Wall This publication will present efforts by FAO and partners on mapping the intervention area of the Great Green Wall initiative and restoration opportunities based on data gathered through Collect Earth and in support of presenting FAO's effort at COP22 in Marrakech on 14 November 2016. [more]
Trees, forests and land use in drylands: The first global assessment Drylands cover about 41 percent of the Earth’s land surface and are home to 2 billion people, the majority of whom depend on forests and other wooded lands, grasslands and trees on farms for income and to meet basic needs. Yet surprising little is known about such ecosystems in drylands, despite widespread recognition of the need to restore drylands to cope with the effects of drought, desertification, land degradation and climate change. This document presents preliminary results of the first global assessment of trees, forests and land use in drylands. It reports, among other things, that the global drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forest, which is more than one-quarter of the global forest area. There are also about 13.5 billion trees outside forests in drylands. More than 200 experts with knowledge of the land and land uses in specific dryland regions conducted the assessment, using freely available satellite imagery and a newly developed survey methodology. The pioneering study by FAO and many partners will be fully reported later in 2016. [more]
Drylands Monitoring Week 2015 This flyer offers an overview on the main outcomes of the five-days workshop "Drylands Monitoring Week 2015": a roadmap for collaborative action in the drylands, and the “Rome Promise”. [more]
Global guidelines for the restoration of degraded forests and landscapes in drylands - Building resilience and benefitting livelihoods The aim of the guidelines is to enhance restoration efforts in the world’s drylands. They provide specific guidance for policymakers and other decision-makers, and for practitioners. Well-informed policymakers and other higher-order decision-makers can be enablers in the design and implementation of effective restoration efforts by providing appropriate policies, governance mechanisms and financial and other incentives. Practitioners are the doers of restoration, and guidance is provided for them on the actions they should consider in any restoration initiative. Prior to taking action on the ground, they should support facilitated processes to formulate restoration goals and interventions that address the needs of all stakeholders. Effective monitoring is an essential element of adaptive management because it provides reliable feedback on restoration activities, results and management. By measuring progress over time, monitoring and evaluation provide the evidence base on which strategies can be built and adapted and therefore help build resilience. The publication also includes twenty-four case studies to demonstrate the breadth of experiences in dryland restoration and to illustrate the actions recommended in these guidelines. [more]
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]


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
L'invité 26/02/2013 : Nora Berrahmouni, experte forestière à la FAO

Field projects


last updated:  Thursday, December 22, 2016