Experts tackle problems behind loss of dryland forests at FAO headquarters

17 July 2019, Rome ­ Experts from 20 countries gathered at FAO headquarters in Rome last week to discuss the sustainable management of the world’s drylands, which hold the potential to contribute to the food security, livelihoods and resilience of millions of people.

©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

Representatives from Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Near East attended the inaugural meeting of the Working Group on Dryland Forests and Agrosilvopastoral Systems, established by FAO’s Committee on Forestry to understand and tackle the problems behind loss of forests, crops and pastures located in drylands around the globe.

The Working Group aims to guide countries and initiatives to monitor and assess drylands, using advanced technology and tools and making data easily accessible to policy-makers. It will also share knowledge and lessons learned about the sustainable management and restoration of dryland forests, help close technological gaps, and support partners to work together to scale up good practices.

“The benefits of restoration can be 10 or more times higher than the restoration costs, and there are many successful examples that we can learn from in order to practice better drylands management and come up with transformative projects and programmes,” said Tiina Vahanen, FAO's Chief of Forestry Policy and Resources. 

Why are drylands important?

From the African savannah to the Asian steppe, drylands extend over 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface and support more than 25 percent of the world’s population as well as over one quarter of global biodiversity hotspots and many threatened species. Within drylands, forests and trees play a vital role in preventing soil erosion and desertification and mitigating climate change. Dryland forests cover 1.1 billion hectares and represent 27 percent of the global forest area.

Trees in drylands are integral to people’s livelihoods because crops and livestock thrive in their presence and their leaves and fruits feed people and animals. Among them are the baobab tree, a significant source of vitamins and nutrients, and the thorn tree, which improves soil fertility and whose leaves and pods feed animals during droughts.

If properly valued and well managed, dryland forests, crops and pastures can make a large contribution to food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable livelihoods for two billion people worldwide. However, today dryland forests, crops and pastures are under threat from climate change, overharvesting, and other socio-economic factors.

Partnering, strengthening

At last week’s inaugural meeting, the members of the Working Group developed a work plan covering the next two years and recommended that the Working Group Steering Committee work closely with the new global GEF-7 Sustainable Forest Management Impact Program on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes, on which FAO is the lead agency.

The Working Group recognised its important role in guiding the work and agreed to provide technical advice to help implement the GEF-7 Impact program, and to disseminate the lessons learned from it.

last updated:  Monday, July 22, 2019