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




"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, October 17, 2016