- Desertification and drought are problems of a global dimension that affect more than 900 million people in 100 coun-
tries, some of them among the least developed in the world.
- 3.6 billion hectares, 25 percent of the Earth's land area, are being affected by land-degradation. Desertification is occur-
ring to some extent on 30 percent of irrigated areas, 47 percent of rainfed agricultural lands, and 73 percent of rangelands.
- An estimated I.5-2.5 million hectares of irrigated land, 3.5-4.0 million hectares of rainfed agricultural land, and about 35
million hectares of rangelands lose all or part of their productivity every year due to land-degradation processes.
- Complex interactions among physical, biological, political, social, cultural, and economic factors cause desertification.
- Population growth and the need for food production in ecologically fragile arid and semi-arid lands, is putting too much
pressure on the ecosystems.
- Many land-use projects are designed with little understanding of the socioeconomic conditions of the population and the
dynamics and sustainability of the natural-resource base.
- Inappropriate economic policies that undervalue natural resources and encourage misuse.
Projected impact of human activities on desertification
- By 2025 the number of people adversely affected by desertification is expected to double to I.8 billion people.
Social and economic consequences of desertification
- Intensive population pressures and improper resource use degrade the land, reduce its productivity, decrease food
security and health prospects, increase poverty, and increase pressures for large-scale migration. The annual income lost
worldwide due to desertification is estimated to be $42 billion.
- Desertification and land degradation affect the regional and global energy balance, reduce carbon sequestration and
storage, and increase carbon emission.
- Land degradation in dryland systems can lead to the loss of genetic and species diversity. Drylands contain a significant
endowment of plant and animal species biodiversity, a vital source of genetic materials that include important sources of
medical, commercial, and industrial products.
- Land degradation causes loss of productivity and impairment of aquatic ecosystems through sediment pollution, salt
intrusion and general environmental degradation.
Technologies, policies, and measures to mitigate desertification
- Providing family planning, health, and education services (especially for women).
- Developing programs to eradicate poverty and promote alternative livelihood systems.
- Developing effective and sustainable uses of land and natural resources that do not endanger their future productivity.
- Integrating anti-desertification schemes into national environment and development planning.
- Involving beneficiaries in the planning and management of resources, to ensure equitable access.
Status of international agreement
- The Desertification Convention was originally signed by 116 countries in Paris in June I 994. The Convention came into
force December 26, 1996, and 128 countries had ratified the convention by mid-1998. The first Conference of Parties
(COP) was held in fall 1997 in Rome, Italy.
"Protecting Our Planet, Securing Our Future" UNEP / U.S. NASA / World Bank, 1997