Action Against Desertification

Workshop on "Monitoring and assessment of drylands: forests, rangelands, trees and agrosilvopastoral systems"


Drylands cover more than 40 percent of the world’s land area. Almost a third of the world’s population and some half of the global livestock are found here. Most people are poor and many subsist on less than US$1 per day.

Degradation is widespread and climate change is likely to make matters worse. Yet dryland trees, forests and agrosilvopastoral systems can play a major role in improving environmental sustainability, productivity and resilience. Restoration, i.e., regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being, is both a compelling need and a major opportunity.

Drylands and their use are not well understood or researched and receive inadequate recognition and attention. Forests, tree cover, soil dynamics, agrosilvopastoral systems, rangelands and grasslands remain poorly known in terms of extent, condition, and change.

Management and restoration suffer as a consequence. Initiatives to restore productivity to the drylands, including the Africa’s Great Green Wall initiative, therefore run the risk of flying blind. There is no good baseline against which financial and technical investments can be prioritized and progress measured. Existing monitoring systems are not only insufficient but also poorly coordinated and integrated.

New technology and methods offer hope, however. They make it realistic to engage beneficiaries as well as experts in monitoring, and to monitor trees outside forests, grasslands and rangelands. Further development is needed to integrate socio-economic data and make use of traditional knowledge including folklore and storytelling. Operational systems for wide-scale monitoring of drylands are finally within reach.

FAO, U.S. Geological Survey, the World Resources Institute, the World Bank and its partners (CILSS, OSS and IUCN) and others are currently developing tools to conduct baseline assessments and monitor impacts in the Great Green Wall countries.

The Rio Conventions (UNCCD, CBD, UNFCCC), the SDGs and the Bonn Challenge ask that countries and partners track and report progress in implementing agreed actions. Effective monitoring increases visibility and is a pre-condition for greater investments in drylands.

FAO’s Committee on Forestry recommended, during its 22nd session in 2014 that a global assessment of the extent and status of dryland forests, rangelands, trees outside forests and agrosilvopastoral systems be included in the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), contingent upon the availability of extra-budgetary funding.

This workshop, organized by FAO in Rome from the 19th to the 21st of January 2015, aimed to :

  • Assess the gap between the need and the current state of drylands monitoring
  • Explore the opportunities offered by new technology and policy commitment
  • Initiate a collaborative process to promote large-scale, comprehensive monitoring of drylands

Workshop presentations and other documents available here.