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The rapid spread of desertification of arid lands is a problem of international dimension. Many of the fragile ecosystems in arid environments are being degraded, largely through over-exploitation of their natural resources, as witnessed by desert encroachment, blowing dunes on former farmlands, depressed water tables, loss of valuable wildlife species, accelerated erosion and increasing scarcity of fuelwood and forage. It is becoming evident that the future long-range development of the world's dry zones depends on the conservation and rational utilization of their natural resources and particularly of their forests, trees and shrubs.

It was toward this end that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organized, as a satellite meeting to the Ninth World Forestry Congress, a Consultation on the Role of Forestry in Combating Desertification which was held in Saltillo, Mexico from 24 to 28 June 1985. The Consultation was preceded by a study tour to Sierra-Vista, Arizona, and the State of Coahuila, Mexico.

An important outcome of this Consultation, was the formulation and adoption of a strategy on the role of forestry in combating desertification and of a corresponding framework for action. Included in this strategy, which represents the collective thinking of the individual participants rather than the position of their respective agencies and institutions, are goals and objectives, programmes of activity, implementation framework, and recommended follow-up activities. The strategy was then presented at and endorsed by the Ninth World Forestry Congress.

In view of the importance of the topics discussed and of the number of papers prepared, and at the request of several institutions, it has been decided to synthesize all the documentation of the Consultation and publish it as one of the FAO Conservation Guides issued by the Forest and Wildlands Conservation Branch, Forest Resources Division.

This document is not a manual or a state-of-the-art report on arid zone forestry. Rather, it is intended to serve as a general guide for decision-makers and managers to better design forestry programmes in arid zones. It is also expected that it will help to support new initiatives and increased cooperation at regional and international levels.

The work has been coordinated and edited by Mr. B. Ben Salem, Senior Forestry Officer of the Forest Resources Division, who acted as the Secretary of the Expert Consultation.

J.P Lanly
Forest Resorces Division
Forestry Department

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