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. 


Expert interviews


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]
State of Mediterranean Forests 2013 Towards sustainable development in the Mediterranean: challenges to face [more]


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

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:  Monday, June 20, 2016