As the global community marks the world day to combat desertification, IUCN urges governments to recognize the role drylands play in offering livelihood opportunities for the poor.
Drylands cover more than one third of the global land area and are home to some of the most unique biological and cultural diversity on the planet. Two and a half billion people live in these arid areas and are directly dependent on the natural resources they provide.
If managed sustainably drylands provide food, fuel wood, shelter material, and medicinal plants. Commodities such as meat, milk and hides from livestock production, as well as Gum Arabic, Henna, Aloe, and Frankincense are important sources of revenue. More than 30% of the world’s cultivated plants originate in drylands, and in times of economic hardship, crop failure and climate shocks such as droughts and floods, drylands help in ensuring food security.
Drylands also ensure extremely important local climate-regulating services. Vegetation helps reduce temperatures and mitigate the effects of heavy rainfall. Drylands provide opportunities for carbon management and land restoration.
IUCN is developing ecosystem-based adaptation strategies to ensure that drylands and the goods and services they provide, are properly managed. Globally, there is evidence that 10-20% of the world’s drylands are degraded. Inappropriate policies at national and local level are the main driving force behind land degradation, leading to increased poverty
In Sudan, IUCN partners with the Sudanese Forest National Corporation (FNC) to restore traditional Gum Arabic gardens. Gum Arabic is an international commodity used in the confectionary and beverage industries and is also an important ingredient for the pharmaceutical and print industries.
The Balochistan Province is one of the drier regions in Pakistan and faces problems of depleting aquifers, degraded watersheds, inefficient water use, and lack of access to potable water. IUCN is launching a demonstration project in the Balozai Village. Together IUCN and the community of Balozai have improved the artificial recharge system; the access of women to potable water; the provision of washing points; and efficient water use for agriculture.
IUCN is working to support the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and is currently finalizing a strategy for its work at local, national and regional level to ensure dryland ecosystems are sustainably managed for people and nature.