The drylands seem to be perennially troubled and unable to make headway. Conflict, hunger, drought, and flights of refugees attract headline attention and cause discouragement among many in the developed world. If the development effort is futile, why continue with it?
Yet there are many successes that do not attract headline attention, even in the difficult settings of Africa. UNEP (1999) carefully reviewed claims of success in combating desertification, and identified bona fide success stories in dryland Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan.
Successes come from a combination of individual and community initiative, ingenuity and innovation supported by research and development assistance. In many cases, the progress was (and is being) achieved in the face of daunting challenges such as climatic risks and policies that discriminate against the agricultural sector.
Success stories span the fields of soil and water conservation, irrigation, forestry, livestock and range management, community-based natural resource management, extension and research, and local institution-building. The fruits of success include long-term increases in productivity; increases in per capita income; increased drought resilience of rural production systems; and the conservation of biodiversity.
Follow the links below to read about some impressive cases across the drylands of Africa and Asia.
UNEP, 1999. UNEP initiative on success stories in land degradation-desertification control: summaries of 'Saving the drylands' award-winning-projects, 1995-1998. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Land Unit, Dryland Ecosystem and Desertification Control/PAC. 21 pp. Also available on website at http://www.unep.org/unep/envpolimp/techcoop/1.htm