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 Future challenges to the sustainable use of natural resources in the dry areas

Nearly 50% of the arid regions globally, including one-quarter of the irrigated land, one-half of the rainfed cropland and three-quarters of the rangeland, are estimated to be degraded. Unless this trend is checked, the food security of the people in the dry areas will continue to be under threat.

Prof. Dr. Adel El- Beltagy
Director General, ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria

The dry areas of the world are particularly prone to desertification. An estimated 80 million people are affected annually. The deterioration of vegetative cover, wind and water erosion, salinization, and the degradation of soil fertility and structure are all manifestations of desertification. Nearly 50% of the arid regions globally, including one-quarter of the irrigated land, one-half of the rainfed cropland and three-quarters of the rangeland, are estimated to be degraded. Unless this trend is checked, the food security of the people in the dry areas will continue to be under threat.

In attempting to develop options for the development of drylands there is an urgent need to improve the livelihoods of the poor, while at the same time protect natural resources of land, water and biodiversity. Experience has shown that simple recipe solutions that tend to be sectoral do not function efficiently and that there is a need for customizable toolkits and options that can be tailored by communities to meet their priorities. Such toolkits and methods are knowledge intensive, requiring greater attention to knowledge management and exchange including new institutional arrangements and greater attention to informal and community social structures.

Through consultations at a broad level, ICARDA has developed an integrated multisectoral approach that distilled the main question: ‘how can poverty in desertification-prone areas be reduced and the poor achieve stable, secure livelihoods without undermining the ecosystem goods and services that they vitally depend on?’

Under a new consortium called the ‘Desertification, Drought, Poverty and Agriculture’ a set of six inter-related research themes were proposed: Understanding and coping with land degradation and drought risk; Managing and restoring ecosystem functions; Policy and institutional options; Harnessing genetic resources; Diversifying systems and livelihoods; and Knowledge and technology sharing.

Examples of how ICARDA is contributing to these themes were presented at this meeting. For more details please contact ICARDA at the contact link above. (Link will be active for registered users only)

© International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), 2006

Associated links

Meeting information

Eighth International Conference on Dryland Development 25-28 February 2006, Beijing, China

Keywords associated to this article: drylands; sustainable; natural resources
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