CIESIN Reproduced, with permission, from:

2. Global status of desertification

a. Socio-economic aspects

24. During the entire period under consideration, from 1978 to 1991, and even earlier in recent history, human beings were not only the main agents of desertification, but also its victims. Throughout the drylands in developing countries, desertification has been one of the main factors in the migration of subsistence farmers and pastoralists to the slums and shanty towns of major cities in search of a higher standard of living. This migration has produced desperate populations vulnerable to disease and natural disasters and prone to crime and civil strife. This exodus from rural to urban areas has not only exacerbated the already dire urban problems of many developing countries affected by desertification, but has delayed efforts to rehabilitate and develop rural dryland areas because of significantly decreased rural manpower and increased negligence of the land. Moreover, the effects of land degradation in the drylands were compounded by severe recurrent droughts.

25. The mass exodus from rural areas affected by desertification that has taken place in Africa since the late 1970s is a vivid illustration of the plight of people facing such intolerable environmental conditions. At the peak of the crisis, in 1984 and 1985, an estimated 30 to 35 million people in 21 African countries were seriously affected by severe droughts. Approximately 10 million were displaced and became known as environmental refugees. Death, disease, chronic malnutrition and disability haunt these millions of refugees because they continue to live under intolerable conditions. In 1991 some 30 million Africans in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan and several countries of the West Sahel were still threatened by famine and needed urgent external food aid in order to survive.

26. Recent developments have further underlined the fact that desertification results from complex interactions among physical, chemical, biological, socio-economic and political problems, local, national and global in nature. The linkage between challenges to productivity (and thus the physical, chemical and biological stability of the land) and national and international economic policies was often overlooked. Trade barriers have been particularly disadvantageous for poor developing countries affected by or prone to desertification during the past decades. And while the burden on farmers and pastoralists in these countries can be traced partly to international policies and markets, it also has roots in local land tenure practices and usufruct rights, as well as domestic priorities, that often favour the urban consumer over the rural producer. Frequently, too, development policies have not been geared towards reducing poverty, so that marginalized peoples received little support in breaking the vicious circles that forced them to mismanage land. Rural women in particular were often unable to obtain credit and access to advisory services that could have helped them improve their land use practices.

27. Most developing countries affected by desertification today not only face high population growth rates (frequently 3.0 to 3.5 per cent per annum) but also high rates of urbanization (8 to 10 per cent per annum). In some countries in Latin America, three quarters of the population already live in towns and cities. In Asia just above one third has become urban. Although slightly less than one third of the population has left the rural areas in Africa, in several countries, more than half of the population is urbanized; in Zambia, for example, it is 52 per cent and in Djibouti, 81 per cent. These growing urban populations require food. Consequently, a steady stream of soil nutrients (in the forms of food, fuelwood and charcoal) is moving from the countryside to the towns, where they are ultimately transformed into useless sewage, which also exacerbates existing sanitation problems. This rapid transition from rural to urban societies has not been matched by an equally rapid replenishment of soil nutrients, which was so characteristic of the older subsistence economies in developing countries or of modernized agriculture in developed ones.

28. Demands for production have increased the pressure on existing productive land and have pushed the limits of production into increasingly marginal lands. There is a steady tendency to expand irrigation on rainfed croplands while crops not requiring irrigation encroach onto the better rangelands, thus forcing pastoralists to move further onto poorer and dryer areas of lower productivity. This process is accompanied by an ever-increasing rate of soil degradation, as marginal lands are much more susceptible to processes such as erosion and salinization. Increased use of the world's drylands for cropping and grazing means increased dependence on rainfed agriculture and rangelands in areas where rainfall is low, not only but highly variable. A run of dry years, such as that experienced throughout the drylands during the 1970s and 1980s, followed periods of favourable rainfall when cropping and high stocking rates had become common in areas that had previously been little used. As desertification persisted, productivity fell, but food demands increased with growing populations. Famine continued. The drylands have shown remarkable resilience, returning more rapidly to productive states when rainfall at last came than most experts had expected. Nonetheless, they remain vulnerable and will doubtless be subject to new droughts and famines.

29. Agricultural expansion to marginal lands frequently resulted in rapid land degradation, with a subsequent decline in production. Hunger for land often causes agricultural encroachment by marginalized farmers into marginal drylands. This demonstrates that unwise land use is also a poverty issue. Unless adequate livelihoods can be created elsewhere (through further intensification of agriculture in fertile areas or the creation of off-farm employment, among other means), there is little political realism in trying to stop agricultural encroachment on marginal drylands and, consequently, desertification.

30. The overall situation in areas affected by desertification, particularly in Africa, may be illustrated by a conclusion of the most recent study in the Sudan (K. Olsson and A. Rapp, 1991): "The drought of 1982-1984 resulted in serious dryland degradation in Central Sudan (Kordofan). The period was characterized by greatly diminished rainfall, loss of vegetation, crop failures with zero harvest of cereals, soil erosion, famine, suffering and death of people and livestock, and human migration from the region. The northward movement of grassland that occurred following the culmination of the drought of 1982-1984 appears to represent a quite rapid recovery from drought-engendered dryland degradation. Recovery can be attributed, in part, to an increase in rainfall, but it is important to note that rainfall during the period 1985 - 1987 remained below the long-term average for the region. Thus it seems that an important contributor to the recovery has been the low level of exploitation during the period 1985-1986, owing to the large numbers of people and animals that had been wiped out during 1983-1984".

b. State of the land

31. Two global data sets showing different aspects of dryland deterioration were obtained in the course of the present assessment. The first data set was produced by the International Centre for Arid and Semi-Arid Land Studies (ICASALS) of Texas Tech University, USA, on the basis of available country statistics with reference to major land uses in drylands. It shows various forms of land degradation in drylands delineated in previous assessments with a correction for subdividing the sub-humid zone into two parts, dry and moist. The second data set relates to soil degradation within drylands of the world delineated by the GEMS/GRID aridity zones and is based on the World Map of the Status of Human Induced Soil Degradation (GLASOD) prepared by the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC) and UNEP in 1990 at an average scale of 1:10,000,000. Due to scale limitations, this map shows the situation only by continents, with no relation to major land-use systems.

32. Although the two data sets are different, they are interrelated: they can be compared at a global and continental level, but should not be directly compared at a country level. The major difference between the global figures for degraded areas within the drylands can be attributed to extensive rangeland areas with significant vegetation degradation but no recorded soil degradation, which have been treated as non-degraded "stable lands" in the GLASOD assessment, e.g. all extensive areas of rangelands in Australia or the Aral-Caspian Basin of the USSR. These rangeland areas are included in the figures of land degradation, but not in the figures pertaining to soil degradation.

33. Reconciliation of these two data sets of global figures provides the following picture of the status of desertification in the world:

The above breakdown of degraded areas indicates that some 2.6 billion hectares, mainly in rangelands, suffer from degradation that was not recorded in the data compilation carried out within the GLASOD framework. Additionally, approximately one billion hectares suffer from soil degradation as well, making a total area of drylands affected by degradation at present nearly 3.6 billion hectares or about 70 per cent of total drylands.

34. The largest areas of degraded irrigated lands are situated in the drylands of Asia, followed by North America, Europe, Africa, South America and Australia in a descending order (see Figure 2). About 43 million hectares of irrigated lands or 30 per cent of their total area in the world's drylands (145 m. ha.) are affected by various processes of degradation, mainly waterlogging, salinization and alkalinization (see Table 1 in the Annex). Apparently there is an increase of some 3 million hectares in comparison with the assessment in 1984, (about 7.5 per cent), but this falls within the standard range of error. It would be safer to assume that the situation did not change appreciably during this period and remained unsatisfactory with a tendency towards worsening. Irrigated lands in dry lands constitute nearly 62 percent of the total irrigated area of the world (240m.ha.). Soil scientists have established that the world is now losing about 1.5 million hectares of irrigated lands annually due to various processes of soil degradation, mostly salinization and mainly in the drylands. It would thus be safe to assume that about 1.0 to 1.3 million hectares of irrigated land are currently lost every year throughout the world's drylands; this is presumably compensated by irrigating the best rainfed croplands and rangelands, whose area, however, decreases accordingly.

35. Nearly 216 million hectares of rainfed croplands or about 47 per cent of their total area in the world 's drylands (457 m. ha.) are affected by various processes of degradation, mainly water and wind soil erosion, depletion of nutrients and physical deterioration (see Figure 3 and Table 2 in the Annex). It shows some decrease in comparison with the 1984 assessment. Rainfed cropland in the drylands constitutes nearly 36 percent of its total area in the world (1,260 m. ha.). It was estimated that the world is annually losing about 7 to 8 million hectares of croplands due to various processes of soil degradation, mainly erosion and urbanization; more than half of this is in the drylands. Consequently, 3.5 to 4.0 m. ha. of rainfed croplands are currently lost every year throughout the world's drylands. This is presumably compensated by cultivating the best rangelands, the area of which, however, decreases accordingly.

36. This present assessment shows that the largest area of degraded rangelands again lies in Asia, followed by Africa, while the percentage of degraded rangelands is similar in both these continents, as well as in Europe and the Americas (see Figure 4 and Table 3 in the Annex). The figures for Australia seem to be underestimated, but this calls for further study, as earlier published figures also showed that approximately two thirds of the rangelands were undergoing degradation.

37. About 3,333 million hectares of rangeland or nearly 73 per cent of its total area in the world's drylands (4,556 million hectares) are affected by degradation, mainly by degradation of vegetation, which, on some 757 million hectares, is accompanied by soil degradation, mainly erosion. It shows an increase of some 233 million hectares in comparison with the 1984 assessment, approximately 7.5 percent. Again, this falls within the standard range of error. As in the case of irrigated lands, it would be safer to assume that the situation did not change appreciably during this period and remained very unsatisfactory with a tendency towards worsening. There are no reliable global data on actual losses of rangelands and their conversion into agricultural land, wasteland/badland/desert or urban lands. Figure 5 illustrates the situation in North Africa, showing not only the decrease in rangeland area due to additional cultivated and fallowed land (abandoned due to soil degradation), but a decline in rangeland productivity as well, caused by increasing population pressure. If the above estimates of losses of agricultural lands and their compensation through cultivation of the better rangelands are correct, annual rangelands losses within the drylands amount to 4.5 to 5.8 million hectares and even more if factors such as sand encroachment and urbanization, which have not yet been measured, are considered.

38. The summary of the above findings illustrates the following global status of desertification/land degradation: 70 per cent of all agriculturally used drylands is affected to some degree by various forms of land degradation, mostly by the degradation of natural vegetation partly accompanied by serious deterioration of soil (see Figure 6 and Table 4 in the Annex). Apparently, the situation is better in Australia and somewhat better in Europe than in the rest of the world, where it seems to be more or less similar everywhere, but the situation in Australia could be underestimated. The worst situation is in North America and Africa, although the problem is not much less serious in South America and Asia.

39. A comparison of total estimates for the areas affected by desertification shows an increase from 3,475 million hectares in 1984 to 3,592 million hectares in 1991, i.e., 117 million hectares or 3.4 per cent. This increase in figures falls within the standard range of error and thus should not be considered as a proven change. The conclusion again is that the situation remains the same: very unsatisfactory.

40. Despite the inaccuracy of the available data, the present assessment very definitely shows a dramatic situation in the land resources of the world's drylands. Approximately 70 per cent are undergoing desertification or various forms of land degradation. It is difficult at this stage to predict to definite trends, but the process, if unabated, may lead to very serious socio-political and economic consequences world-wide, largely in developing countries. Only 18 industrialized or oil-producing countries of the 99 affected countries are believed to be able to combat the desertification of approximately 1.5 billion hectares of their territories. For the 81 developing countries whose 2.1 billion hectares of lands are undergoing desertification, the problem cannot be solved without major external assistance through international partnership.

41. The analysis of soil degradation, in degrees, in areas of the world's drylands shows that major areas of degraded soils are confined to semi-arid (419.4 m. ha.) and arid (392.2 m. ha.) zones (see Table 5 in the Annex). The area of degraded soils in drylands of the world comprises some 1,137 m. ha. or more than 18 per cent of the total area, including hyper-arid zones. For the most part, soils are slightly and moderately affected by various degradation processes, strong and extreme degradation being more limited.

42. The analysis of soil degradation, by types, in areas of the world affected by desertification shows that the major soil degradation process in the drylands is wind erosion (512.4 m. ha.), followed by water erosion (478.4 million hectares), then chemical (111.5 million hectares) and physical (34.9 million hectares) degradation (see Table 6 in the Annex). In dry sub-humid and semi-arid zones, water erosion is more serious than wind action, while in arid and hyper-arid areas, wind erosion is the strongest degradation factor.

43. The analysis of soil degradation, by types and degrees, in areas of the world affected by desertification, excluding hyper-arid zones, indicates that the major soil degradation process in these areas is water erosion (45.2 per cent), followed by wind erosion (41.8 per cent) then by chemical (9.7 percent) and physical (3.4 percent) degradation, the dominant role being played by slight (41.3 per cent) and moderate (45.4 per cent), while strong (12.6 percent) and extreme (0.7 percent) degrees are not very significant (see Table 7 in the Annex). Three major factors responsible for soil degradation in drylands are: overgrazing (34.5 per cent), deforestation (29.5 per cent) and agriculture (28.1 per cent). If the total area affected is considered, Asia suffers most from soil degradation in drylands, followed by Africa, while the percentage of the affected areas is largest in Africa (81 per cent in Africa compared to 22 per cent in Asia). All other continents have approximately the same areas of drylands affected by soil degradation, although the percentage is lowest in Europe and North America (see Table 8 in the Annex).

3. Local assessments of desertification rate

44. There are no reliable global data on the present rate of desertification with the exception of those figures on annual land losses provided above in the paragraphs pertaining to irrigated land (34), rainfed cropland (35) and rangeland (38). As indicated in paragraph 23, certain local studies provide more detailed information in this respect.


45. The Baringo study area of 360 thousand hectares is situated in a transitional zone with annual precipitation of nearly 600 mm rising to 1900 mm in the surrounding mountains and is used largely as rangeland with some irrigated agriculture. The following changes were observed from 1950 to 1981, in percentage of the total area:

Areas improved to better vegetation class 11.0

Areas degraded to worse vegetation class 14.0

Expansion of agricultural area 5.3

Given a rate of vegetation degradation of 1,626 hectares per year, the annual desertification rate of the area is 0.6 per cent.

46. The Marsabit study area of 1,400 thousand hectares is situated in a drier zone with annual precipitations of less that 250 mm rising up to 800 mm in the surrounding mountains and is used largely for extensive pastoralism with some mixed farming. The changes during 1956-1972 were as follows, in percentage of the total area:

Areas improved to better vegetation class 0.0

Areas degraded to worse vegetation class 20.5

Areas mainly unchanged 79.5

Expansion of agricultural area 0.0

Given a rate of vegetation degradation of 17,937 hectares per year, the annual desertification rate is 1.3 per cent.


47. In three study areas of Mali, the following soil losses were observed during the last 30-35 years:

This study gives an average annual soil loss rate of 0.1 per cent, but does not provide any data on vegetation degradation and thus does not give a full picture of desertification.


48. The following changes in Tunisia were noted in the areas of different land uses (expressed in thousands of hectares):

Given an average annual loss of productive land by desertification of approximately 10 thousand hectares during this century, an average annual desertification rate of 10 per cent is characteristic of the desert fringes of Tunisia.


49. Certain studies conducted by Chinese academic institutions show the present rate of desertification expansion on the fringes of the desert as being approximately 210 thousand hectares per year. Relating this figure to 33.4 million hectares of desertification-prone lands, one arrives at a current average annual desertification rate of 0.6 per cent. Some local studies even showed that the present annual rate of desertification was 1.3 percent in Kangbao County north of Beijing in Hebei Province, while in Fengning County it was 1.6 per cent.


50. The annual desertification rate in certain districts of Kalmykia north-west of the Caspian Sea was recently estimated as high as 10 per cent, while in others it was 1.5 to 5.4 percent. The desert growth around the drying Aral Sea was estimated at approximately 100 thousand hectares per year during the last 25 years, an average annual desertification rate of 4 per cent. With the same annual rate of approximately 4 per cent, desertification expands into the adjoining rangelands, greatly reducing their productivity.


51. An area of some 500 thousand hectares in the Anti-Lebanon Range north of Damascus was studied recently to assess the changes in land and land use patterns from 1958-1982. It was found that the area of rocky shrub land and bare skeletal land has increased from 50 thousand hectares or 10 per cent to 80 thousand hectares or 16 per cent of the total, an average annual rate of desertification of 0.25 per cent for this area.


52. Existing statistics show that the average annual rate of cultivated land abandonment due to soil degradation has increased from 0.6 per cent in 1970-1980 to about 7.0 per cent in 1980-1984.

The Sahel

53. According to a 1989 publication of the results of a cooperative study in the western part of the Sudano-Sahelian region conducted jointly by Comité Inter-Etats de Lutte Contre la Sécheresse au Sahel (CILSS) and Programme Allemand CILSS (PAC), in the southern parts of Mauritania, Mali and Niger (Le Sahel en lutte contre la Désertification: Leçons d'expériences) the desertification rate between 1961 and 1987 was of an order of some 2 million hectares per year.

54. The above data from the case studies show very large variations in the annual rate of desertification in different parts of the world, ranging from 0.1 per cent to 10.0 per cent--a difference of a hundred times. We can therefore conclude that the more arid an area is, the higher its rate of desertification tends to be. If we assume, on the basis of the above case studies, that the annual rate of desertification is approximately 10 per cent in arid lands, 1 per cent in semi-arid lands and 0.1 per cent in dry sub-humid lands, we will arrive at the present annual increases of desertification: 156.9 million hectares in arid areas, 23.05 million hectares in semi-arid areas and 1.3 million hectares in dry sub-humid areas--a total of 181.2 million hectares throughout the drylands of the world and an average annual rate of current desertification of 3.5 per cent. Further studies on the basis of the global monitoring system are needed to obtain more reliable data.

4. The situation in Africa

55. Drylands in Africa, including hyper-arid deserts, comprise 1,959 million hectares or 65 per cent of the continent and about one third of the world's drylands. One third of this area is hyper-arid deserts (672 million hectares) that are uninhabited, with the exception of sparse thiny oases, while the remaining two thirds or 1,287 million hectares are composed of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas with a population of about 400 million (two thirds of all Africans).

56. According to the present assessment, 1.9 million hectares of irrigated croplands (or 18 per cent of their total area), 48.86 million hectares of rainfed croplands (or 61 per cent of their total area), and 995.08 million hectares of rangelands (or 74 per cent of their total area) in Africa are affected by desertification at a moderate or higher degree.

57. Recurrent droughts constitute a permanent factor of life throughout the drylands of Africa; virtually every year there is a drought in some part of the continent or another. Major droughts, however, regularly affect larger portions of the drylands. Such disastrous events occurred in 1968-1973, 1982-1985 and 1990-1991, when many countries of Africa experienced substantial food shortages. With each drought cycle, desertification increases.

58. Other factors contributing to desertification include uncontrolled population growth, inadequate agricultural practices, increase of livestock beyond the carrying capacity of natural rangelands, and deforestation (see Figures 5 and 7). The situation in this respect is illustrated by the following figures showing annual percentage rates of change in anthropogenic factors influencing desertification:

59. The above data show that all major factors of desertification in Africa remain unabated, leading to increasing land degradation despite modest efforts to arrest it. Although satellite data show rather large fluctuations in the rainfall-dependent northern and southern boundaries of green biomass production zones, both seasonal and annual, the overall trend is negative. There are clear manifestations of continued ecological degradation.

60. In 1989, UNSO circulated questionnaires to 50 African countries affected by desertification. Half the government respondents saw a significant worsening of the situation, as reflected in falling groundwater levels, evaporation of surface waters, rangeland degradation, rainfed and irrigated cropland deterioration and deforestation, while 17 per cent rated it as slightly worse. In the same year, UNEP conducted a similar survey in affected countries of Southern Africa that produced a general conclusion that the situation is worsening throughout the entire region. The effects of desertification are widely felt in the affected countries, eroding the productive capacity of local and national economies and threatening the very survival of the people.

61. Civil strife is a complicating factor influencing resource systems and availability of food in many drylands of the continent. The problems in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Angola, Mozambique and other countries of Africa are well known. Being short-term in itself, this factor contributes greatly to the long-term process of land degradation in many ways, partly because land is left unattended--which is not always good for the natural recovery of land, contrary to general belief, particularly in a short-term perspective.

62. Desertification has a considerable bearing on overall economic performance and prospects in the majority of African countries affected by the process, as these countries rely heavily on their drylands as their main resource base. Agricultural production per capita, the indicator that reflects the ability of the domestic agricultural sector to satisfy domestic consumer demand, is stagnating or has even declined from the levels of the 1970s. Similarly, the average annual growth of GNP per capita, which in Sub-Saharan Africa increased at 3.0 per cent between 1965 and 1973, fell by 2.8 per cent between 1980 and 1986, by 4.4 per cent in 1987 and by 0.5 per cent in 1989. Furthermore, economic growth in Africa was lower in 1990 than in 1989, particularly in countries of the Sudano-Sahelian region. The following data on food production, taken from World Economy Survey 1990, illustrate the overall deterioration of the situation in the majority of the African countries affected by desertification:

63. A particularly complex and serious situation seems to persist in the Sudano-Sahelian region of Africa. Although there are no directly measured data on desertification and its social and economic consequences for the region as a whole, certain case studies and published statistical data for some of the countries of the region indicate that the situation is getting worse, rather than improving. In the Sahel, for example, within the last 20 years, from 1969 to 1989, agricultural production has fluctuated from year to year in conformity with rainfall patterns. However, the general trend within this period was positive and some growth of agricultural production was obtained. This trend of growth was due mainly to the expansion of the cropping area, while the average yields were stagnating at a low level despite all technological and management efforts, clearly indicating the effect of continuing land degradation. The same might be said of other countries of the region as well. The above country data on the agricultural situation in Africa support this view. Despite all the means employed in the region, as well as periodic conditions more favourable than those of the drought years' weather conditions, the scale and force of desertification continue to produce a chain of negative consequences for the environment and hence for the economy, which can not easily be countered with the measures already taken. Reports prepared by UNSO underline the fact that desertification in the Sudano-Sahel is exacerbated by unpredictable and often severe droughts; desertification or aridification due to extended droughts, the most recent of which lasted almost 20 years; and general dryland degradation. As a result of this extended drought, which peaked during the early 1970s and mid-1980s, Lake Chad at its worst point contracted to one third of its normal area. Rivers have fallen, and the land has been severely damaged, especially by erosion.

64. Although a recovery of rainfall took place in 1991 in various areas, drought is a chronic phenomenon that may be expected to recur in the region. Fuelwood supply has diminished in certain regions to crisis proportions that may become generalized even sooner than the already precarious food situation. An even more alarming situation is that traditional rural land use, especially in agriculture, may be drawing close to its limits of expansion, so that further increases in production may be obtainable only with higher inputs. Indeed, increased agricultural production may become economically unfeasible and highly destructive to the environment unless financial assistance is provided to cover the costs of the increased inputs, as well as those of environmental safeguards.

Chapter II



1. Since 1978, at each of its regular sessions and in accordance with the mandate given to it by the United Nations General Assembly, the Governing Council of UNEP has considered progress in the implementation of the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification (PACD), regularly reporting its findings and decisions to the Assembly through the Economic and Social Council.

2. In 1984 at its twelfth session, the Governing Council considered not only progress in the implementation of the PACD and the world status of desertification, but the PACD itself. By paragraph 4 of decision 12/10 of 28 May 1984, the Governing Council reconfirmed the validity of the Plan and the general appropriateness of the institutional arrangements established by the Assembly for the follow-up of its implementation.

3. By paragraph 8 of its decision 15/23 of 25 May 1989, the Governing Council requested the Executive Director "to arrange for an external evaluation of the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification to be conducted and for the results to be presented well in time for the proposed United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, but not later than the sixteenth regular session of the Governing Council" (in 1991). This evaluation was made during 1990 and the corresponding report was presented to the sixteenth session of the Governing Council as document UNEP/GC.16/16/Add.1.

4. The external evaluation reconfirmed the validity of the principles contained in the PACD, as well as its utility as a tool for experts and technicians, but it showed that the modest implementation of the Plan during 1978-1989 was due in part to certain shortcomings of the Plan itself--notably its lack of focus and its omission of socio-economic factors associated with desertification that should be better understood by politicians and decision-makers. The evaluation concluded that the PACD should remain a global strategy for desertification control and recommended the preparation and dissemination of a slightly revised version of the Plan and its guidelines.

5. After considering the above report on this external evaluation, the Governing Council, by its decision 16/22 of 31 May 1991, reaffirmed in Section A "its conviction that the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification is an appropriate instrument to assist Governments in developing national programmes for arresting the process of desertification" and in paragraph 4, Section D, also requested the Executive Director "to take into account when revising the existing recommendations of the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification, the approved findings and recommendations of the evaluation report and of this decision, and to include the revised recommendations in the Council's report on the status of desertification and implementation of the Plan of Action to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development".

6. Chapter III of the present report responds to this last decision of the Governing Council on the subject and the relevant provisions of Assembly Resolution 44/172 concerning the preparation of the documentation on desertification for UNCED.


1. Introduction

7. In compiling the present report, the material was obtained from relevant agencies and organizations, both within and outside the United Nations system, including UNEP, UNDP, UNSO, the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, WFP, Unesco, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WMO, WHO, ILO, UNCTAD, IUCN, United Nations Regional Commissions (ECA, ECLAC, ESCAP, ESCWA, ECE), CILSS, IGADD, OAU, AMCEN, SADCC and EEC. Unavoidably, constraints of reporting length preclude the possibility of including the detailed contributions supplied. Therefore, only a summary of major trends is outlined below, while a world-wide compendium of anti-desertification actions and projects is maintained and permanently updated by UNEP.

8. It may be observed that the recommendations contained in the PACD were wide-ranging and called for action from rural populations, Governments, sub-regional and regional institutions, and the international community. Such expectations raised significant problems for an accurate evaluation of achievements and it is only possible to speak in general terms in a review of what has been done.

9. As UNEP's Governing Council had reviewed the first assessment of progress in the implementation of the PACD carried out in 1984, the Council noted that measures taken during the seven-year period that had since elapsed had not produced substantial results in any of the countries and regions affected by desertification. Nowhere had the PACD been implemented in its totality.

10. In 1987, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the PACD, the United Nations system tried to evaluate what had been achieved during that decade. This served only to confirm that desertification was still progressing virtually at the same rate as at the time of UNCOD in 1977. The process still affected all continents and, as observed earlier, the countries most seriously affected were those of the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas of Africa and Asia. In Africa, the Sudano-Sahelian region, after a 20-year series of droughts, remained the most permanently vulnerable area; the well-being of some 80 to 85 per cent of the population of the region had been affected.

2. Role of the United Nations system and the International community

11. At UNCOD, the United Nations system as a whole participated actively, bringing in the special expertise of each of its agencies to help solve the problem of desertification. In drafting the programme of action to combat desertification, lessons were learnt from the experience of these agencies, and it was assumed that they would participate actively in the subsequent implementation of the PACD, as envisaged by the relevant General Assembly resolutions. Some of the pre-UNCOD initiatives which were tacitly subsumed in the PACD included the following:

12. Upon the recommendation of UNCOD, the General Assembly decided to establish IAWGD, which reported to ACC and to UNEP's Governing Council. This body was to serve as a forum for coordinating the work of various United Nations bodies, including the regional commissions, for the implementation of the PACD. Regular annual sessions of IAWGD were held from 1978 through 1991 and the Group assisted UNEP in coordinating activities.

13. The PACD was explicit in recognizing that whereas the main anti-desertification thrust was expected at the national level, there would be many other areas where support from regional or international organizations would be called for (Recommendation 26), including projects that could be carried out only within the framework of regional or international cooperation. Since UNCOD, IAWGD has been used successfully to ensure a tiered action programme that begins with activities at the grassroots level and continues through the national, regional and global levels. At the regional and global levels, activities of the United Nations system have been complemented by those of NGOs, notably ICSU and IUCN.

14. The Consultative Group for Desertification Control (DESCON) was established by the General Assembly in 1978 as a mechanism for mobilizing resources needed for the implementation of the PACD. Its mandate was later expanded to include the exchange of information and policy guidance. By 1991 there had been eight DESCON meetings, although the total funding made available through this mechanism for approved projects remained minimal. The changing role of DESCON has disappointed the developing countries and, indeed, all those who felt that more financial resources would make possible additional field programmes for the control of desertification. Despite problems with DESCON (see paras. 22 to 26 of Chapter IV), there have been some limited funds to enable recipient countries to carry out certain projects dealing with desertification. Between 1978 and 1985, some 50 projects costing US$15 million were completed, and in 1985 there were some 20 projects under implementation at a cost of US$51 million. These projects are parts of national programmes and the funding was provided through bilateral arrangements catalyzed by DESCON. The past and present assessments, however, have indicated that the problem of desertification is so immense that in the absence of massive financial resources, it can only become worse each year. Thus, in 1991, it can be concluded that there has been a failure to respond adequately to the requirements of the PACD, despite DESCON's activities, because of the apparent unwillingness on the part of the affected countries and the donors to make the Plan work as originally conceived.

15. By its resolution 32/172 of 19 December 1977, the General Assembly decided to entrust the Governing Council and the Executive Director of UNEP, as well as the Environment Coordination Board (ECB), with the responsibility of following up and coordinating the implementation of the PACD. Based on the Executive Director's reports, the Governing Council of UNEP has considered various aspects of the problem of desertification and of the progress in implementing the PACD at each of its regular sessions since 1978, periodically reporting the results to the General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council. Within UNEP, a Desertification Control Branch was established which was later transformed into Desertification Control Programme Activity Centre (DC/PAC). This unit also provided a secretariat for IAWGD and DESCON.

16. With the Plan in place, UNEP, supported by IAWGD, saw its primary role as comprising the following elements:

17. UNEP has been able to sponsor and to finance the above skeletal programme areas from the Environment Fund. But the main activities, such as major field projects, had to be funded through different mechanisms, such as the Trust Fund administered by UNSO, funds administered by the United Nations specialized agencies, the World Bank, Regional Development Banks and bilateral aid agencies.

18. Members of IAWGD have been particularly helpful to UNEP in the technical aspects of the PACD implementation, such as deriving criteria and techniques for the assessment of desertification (FAO, Unesco, WMO), holding training workshops and seminars, and the preparation of field manuals for use in various anti-desertification activities.

19. UNEP has worked with the United Nations regional commissions quite successfully, and has succeeded in coordinating those aspects of their work that are relevant to the recommendations of the PACD. One important achievement has been the establishment of several regional networks since 1984. UNEP Governing Council decision 12/10 of 1984 contained recommendations for stronger regional action and supported the establishment of regional networks primarily for training and demonstration. The following networks have been established:

Commenting on the establishment of these networks, the ACC noted in 1988 that the networking approach constituted an effective means of implementing the PACD (see UNEP/GCSS.I/5). There are other networks at the global level established by one or more agencies working together. These include the MAB National Committees of Unesco, as well as the MAB International Network of Biosphere Reserves.

20. At UNCOD, attempts were made to find suitable candidates for large anti-desertification projects involving international action. These were transnational projects, such as the Trans-Saharan Green Belt in North Africa, that helped emphasize the fact that desertification is not limited by political boundaries. This international approach has recently been reinforced by several new projects based on better research and more realism. These include AMCEN's ADALCO projects, which involve true deserts (the Sahara), adjoining river basins, economic communities (Common Market partners), and the African NGO Network. These international collaborative projects also include the development of sub-regional data bases, monitoring systems for the Sahara, Somali-Chalbi and Kalahari-Namib deserts, as well as the selection and implementation of regional projects suggested by the Cairo Programme in line with the PACD.

21. Socio-economic issues are central to international cooperation in responding to the PACD. The Plan had specific recommendations on dealing with some of these aspects, but they have been the most difficult to quantify. It is important at the national and international levels to sensitize planners, project managers and technical persons to these issues, so as to ensure their receiving the priority required for adequate funding. Despite certain achievements in this area, their importance is difficult to determine, as is their impact for the implementation of the PACD.

22. The rehabilitation of the national wealth of natural resources in the form of land surely deserves far more attention, particularly through appropriate land surveys as a first step. In the past, donor Governments, inter-governmental organizations, aid agencies and NGOs have often failed to accord high priority to restoring degraded land and tend to favour agricultural projects, even when the land resource base is fast being depleted by degradation. They were usually reluctant to fund pastoral areas where nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples are rapidly degrading rangeland by overgrazing.

23. UNDP has made the largest contribution of financial and technical support for anti-desertification projects as contained in the PACD, through its normal process of funding various programmes in the developing countries. Many of these projects were executed by the appropriate United Nations agencies, the greatest number by FAO, particularly in the areas of rainfed croplands, rangeland and range management improvement, soil degradation, and secondary salinization of irrigated cropland.

24. International efforts to combat desertification are illustrated by the following list of projects implemented or executed by the United Nations agencies between 1978 and 1990:

25. A UNDP-UNEP joint venture enabled UNSO to assist, on behalf of UNEP, 22 developing countries in the Sudano-Sahelian region of Africa with their national programmes to combat desertification. These countries, many of them the least developed, are most seriously affected by desertification. Such activities included: coordination of anti-desertification programmes within the region, promotion and encouragement of regional cooperation, provision of general policy guidelines for the direction and coordination of anti-desertification programmes, support for efforts undertaken to combat desertification at the national level, working with various donors and the mobilization of financial resources, assisting Governments in translating the PACD recommendations into concrete projects, helping Governments prepare national PACDs, monitoring the implementation of the PACD in the region.

26. Between l974 and l989, more than US$200 million had been channelled by UNSO to projects in the region. Programmes that benefited from these funds included afforestation and reforestation, fuelwood conservation and the utilization of alternative sources of energy, rangeland conservation, soil management and sand dune stabilization, integrated land management, and planning and programming for natural resources conservation.

27. Although the funds mobilized by UNSO are far from adequate, the UNSO example demonstrates the fact that if greater funding were available, anti-desertification programmes within the framework of the PACD would have been more substantial world-wide. The Sudano-Sahelian region of Africa fared better than the other regions in respect of resource mobilization for anti-desertification activities. Some consideration was given by the international experts concerned to the possibility of replicating the UNSO experience in other badly degraded lands of the world. UNSO experience in Africa is now being shared by such sub-regional intergovernmental organizations as IGADD, SADCC, ECOWAS and COMIDES, which are dealing with anti-desertification programmes in the countries they include.

28. Another example of the United Nations efforts to cope with the problem is the current provision, through WFP, of some half billion dollars worth of food aid to projects aimed at reducing the impact of desertification on affected populations. The WFP projects focus mainly on providing food for work in such activities as tree planting, the building of soil and water conservation structures, and the construction and rehabilitation of irrigation/drainage systems. During 1980-1990. WFP supplied about US$700 million in emergency food aid for victims of drought and crop failure in drylands. Some US$127 million in emergency food aid was provided to those in 1991.

29. One of the most successful international actions catalyzed and coordinated by UNEP has been sponsorship of training courses, seminars and workshops in collaboration with a number of countries. These were often repeated during the last 10 years (the number of times is indicated in the parentheses below). The main themes were:

30. The following data illustrate the participation of the countries in the organization of the above training courses, seminars and workshops sponsored by UNEP from 1978-1991, as well as the number of participating specialists from developing countries affected by desertification:

31. In addition to the above, the southern India training courses on afforestation, organized by the NGO Millions of Trees Club, were attended by 1,600 local participants at the grassroots level. Various training courses related to combating desertification were also organized by members of IAWGD, as well as by different intergovernmental regional organizations.

32. Thus, a total of some 7,000 specialists, practically all of them from developing countries affected by desertification, have received their additional anti-desertification training through various international courses, seminars and workshops during the years since the implementation of the PACD began. Some 1,600 trainees at the grassroots level in India should be added to this number. Although this is far below what is required at the global level, it is nonetheless a good start.

33. Several recent international initiatives related to the anti-desertification campaign deserve particular mention. One is the large-scale 1990 initiative of FAO to undertake the International Scheme for the Conservation and Rehabilitation of African Lands, which is specifically designed to enable countries to tailor programmes to fight land degradation to meet their individual needs. The second, also undertaken by FAO in 1990 is the international action programme on Water and Sustainable Agricultural Development, which has a strong drylands water management component. The third initiative was launched by IFAD under its Special Programme for Sub-Saharan African Countries Affected by Drought and Desertification, which gave priority to improving food security by measures to preserve the environment and to restore existing productive capacity, as well as to ensure that projects, once completed, would yield lasting benefits. The first phase of this IFAD programme is coming to a close with the result that by the end of l990, US$450 million had been committed for 26 projects in 20 sub-Saharan countries. With a target of over US$300 million, the second phase will maintain the natural resource management focus of the programme.

34. Certain examples may be selected to illustrate the achievements of the international community in assisting countries struck by desertification in solving their environmental and developmental problems. One such example is the Keita Integrated Development Project in Niger launched by FAO in 1984 with the support of the Governments of Niger and Italy. As stated by the Director-General of FAO, "The Keita Integrated Development Project testifies to the dramatic achievements that can result when human energy and innovation are applied to tackle the challenges of rural development. In just five years, the people of Keita have transformed their district from a barren landscape unable to meet basic food requirements to a flourishing environment for crops and livestock. The Keita project has put into practice FAO's objectives for integrated, sustainable development." The project involved typically Sahelian semi-arid land with an area of some 257 thousand hectares, 205 villages and 156 thousand inhabitants. Unfortunately, however, such examples are scarce on a world-wide scale.

3. The role of regional and subregional cooperation

35. Desertification as an environmental phenomenon cuts across national boundaries and hence it calls for cross-boundary cooperation, particularly at the subregional level, where experience and technologies can be shared by neighbouring countries with similar problems and ecological conditions.

36. In addition to the activities of the United Nations Regional Commissions, several subregional intergovernmental institutions and programmes were established, all specifically directed to the desertification problem throughout the developing countries affected by desertification, especially in Africa.

37. Even before UNCOD, African drought and famine problems had led to the establishment in 1973 of the Inter-State Committee for Control of Drought in the Sahel (CILSS), a body sponsored by the Club du Sahel, which unites several industrialized countries and the developing countries of the western part of the Sudano-Sahelian region. CILSS was followed in 1973 by UNSO, (see paras. 25 to 27 above) a mechanism for the coordination of United Nations efforts to assist Sahelian countries in combating drought. Later on, the mandate of UNSO was expanded to cover the fight against desertification in the Sahel. This United Nations body now covers 22 countries of the entire area affected by desertification.

38. The Committee of Ministers on Desertification (COMIDES) with its headquarters in Dakar; the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), covering the East African subregion; the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC); relevant activities of such subregional organizations as the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are examples of subregional mechanisms with important mandates to contribute to the implementation of many PACD recommendations.

39. As indicated in paragraph 20 above, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) includes an important mechanism for the implementation of the PACD--the African Deserts and Arid Lands Committee (ADALCO). This Committee has decided to tackle such PACD projects as the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, the North African Green Belt, Kalahari-Namib Action Plan, and "savannization" and "sahelization" problems in Africa.

40. The African Environment Agenda of 1980 reflected the environmental aspirations enshrined in the Monrovia Doctrine of 1979. The Lagos Plan of Action, which contains the Agenda, adopted in 1980 by the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of OAU, set out the long-term development objectives of Africa, giving priority to regional food self-sufficiency, the elimination of poverty through the satisfaction of basic needs, and national and regional self-reliance. The Cairo Programme for African Cooperation, approved by AMCEN in 1985, aims at strengthening cooperation to halt and reverse the degradation of the African environment. In 1986, in response to the deepening crisis, the OAU adopted Africa's Priority Programme for Economic Recovery 1986-1990 and the General Assembly adopted this programme as the United Nations Plan of Action for Africa Economic Recovery and Development 1986-1990. All these regional cooperative initiatives gave high priority to drought and desertification.

41. One good example of regional and interregional cooperation is the initiative taken by the EEC within the framework of the Lomé Convention, through which assistance is provided to the African countries struck by desertification. Under the Third Lomé Convention, 1,000 million ECU were devoted to direct and indirect actions to fight against desertification through the European Plan of Action which combined EEC environment/development funds and individual contributions by Member States. As a result of past years' experience, it is recognized that there is a need for a much broader strategic approach to desertification than one limited solely to dealing with the most visible phenomena. Within the past 3 to 4 years a number of projects related to combating desertification were implemented in different countries of Africa, among which 18 per cent were specifically designed for management of natural resources and land use, 19 per cent were sectoral production projects with at least 70 per cent of funds devoted to controlling the deterioration of natural resources, and 63 per cent were integrated rural development projects with at least a 50 per cent component related to combating desertification.

42. In the ESCWA region, UNEP has been cooperating with various intergovernmental organizations, some of them members of different networks interested in contributing to the PACD implementation. One such cooperative venture is with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) for the implementation of the North African Green Belt Project. The original feasibility study for this project was carried out by ALECSO for presentation to UNCOD. Further links with ALECSO were established when a joint UNEP/ALECSO sponsorship led in 1986 to the convening of the first Arab Ministerial Conference on Environmental Considerations in Development. Cooperation with the Arab Centre for Studies of Arid Zones and Drylands (ACSAD) centred on the preparation of national plans for combating desertification in Western Asia. Countries that have benefited from this effort include Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen. Several other ESCWA countries have shown interest in extending the Green Belt concept in keeping with the recommendations of the PACD.

43. The above examples clearly show that the regional and subregional approach that has developed recently is most promising and should be followed in the implementation of the PACD throughout the world.

4. Actions at national level

44. The PACD underlines that effective action must be taken at the national level. Success at this level is reflected at the regional level and ultimately on a global level. Where funds for anti-desertification measures are limited, any action will depend on national priorities. Although attention to drought and desertification increased steadily throughout the 1980s, national government priorities placed little emphasis with marginal lands or long-term conservation activities. The acute economic crisis of the decade forced Governments to concentrate on such affairs as energy provision, unfavourable trade balances and terms of trade, indebtedness and debt rescheduling. By emphasizing these concerns, structural adjustment plans often increased pressure on natural resources by stressing export production and foreign exchange earnings. This practice has often led to further degradation of the natural resource base, and thus desertification.

45. As recommended by the PACD, countries affected by desertification should prepare national plans adapted to their specific natural, economic, social and cultural conditions. So far only some 20 countries of the 99 affected have developed national programmes to combat desertification. In preparing such plans, the Governments, at their request, were assisted by UNEP, as well as by other United Nations agencies concerned. Attempts were made to incorporate these national PACDs into national development programmes or strategies. The following situation can be reported:

46. Action at the national level presupposes that plans have been approved and funds set aside for appropriate activities. Unfortunately, however, most developing countries affected by desertification struggle concurrently with major drought and other pressing economic and social problems. Under these circumstances, there has been a strong preference for short-term investments with immediate returns rather than for long-term and low-yield investments, such as those envisaged for 25 years or more to deal effectively with desertification and to restore badly degraded land to an acceptable level of productivity. Furthermore, areas affected by desertification are often inhabited by pastoral nomads or semi-nomads, who are usually socio-politically marginalized. Where this is the case, causes of failure include neglect over long periods and the lack of adequate machinery on the ground.

47. The lack of financial resources to undertake such large-scale activities as those proposed in the PACD was a major cause for failure at the national level. Because donor countries and agencies showed a clear preference for bilateral aid, developing countries that tried to marshall resources for anti-desertification activities found themselves changing to short-term projects, usually those dealing with agricultural development, that were more easily fundable.

48. Land degradation as a development issue cuts across many ministries in most governments in both developing and industrialized countries. This calls for coordination. The absence of this coordination has often led to a dispersion of efforts at the national level. Some development funds were available nationally for affected countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, and there are examples of successful projects in almost each country. Efforts to coordinate some of these disparate projects at the sub-regional and regional levels produced series of networks that have been established over the past few years.

49. The active participation of the people themselves in the implementation of the PACD at the national level has not been achieved in the majority of countries affected, although there are certain examples of massive public participation in some campaigns, such as the afforestation campaigns in Algeria, India and Kenya. In 1988-1989, grassroots participation or self-help projects were sponsored by members of IAWGD in Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Several eco-village projects have been launched in China and throughout Africa. The potential for significant and successful action at the national level has now been increased in Africa through a series of demonstration village projects set up under AMCEN. This innovative approach is beginning to attract funds, even though donors still insist on bilateral negotiations.

5. Implementation of specific recommendations of the PACD

Recommendations 1 to 3: Assessment of desertification and improvement of land management

50. Assessment of desertification is essential for each affected country. This requires national machinery, especially to evaluate how desertification affects the people, and a programme of land use planning and management based on ecologically sound methods. Many developing countries plagued by poverty could not accord the priorities required to act upon these recommendations appropriately. A shortage of human and technical resources prevented many countries from mounting proper assessment machineries. To institute land use planning, such a tradition should have existed in the country in question. Consequently some countries have gone much further than others simply because a tradition of land use planning has long been operative for other purposes, such as irrigation or commercial farming. Although some evidence of the achievements has been in public awareness and participation recorded since UNCOD, much more remains to be done.

Recommendation 4: Combination of industrialization and urbanization with the development of agriculture and their effects on ecology in arid areas

51. Industrialization and urbanization, if properly conceived and pursued, can reduce ecological pressures on drylands, thereby ameliorating desertification in such lands. During the last 14 years, a series of workshops and training courses in China and the USSR enabled people from developing countries to study the problems associated with urbanization and industrialization in so far as they had desertification impact. A number of publications were issued by UNEP in this connection. Countries that are sufficiently industrialized and urbanized are nevertheless succeeding in providing relief to the hard-pressed rural environment, in Latin America for example. In the Middle East, the development of the oil industry has helped relieve rural areas. Much more needs to be done by UNEP in cooperation with UNCHS (Habitat) and UNIDO to fulfil this recommendation.

Recommendations 5 to 10: Corrective anti-desertification measures

52. Corrective anti-desertification measures at the national level are of primary importance in determining success or failure. Although a great deal of international support has been extended during the last 14 years in the form of disparate projects, particularly in Africa, but they are completely incommensurate with the magnitude of the problem. An examination of the projects shows that the majority are studies, planning and programming missions, and seminars and workshops, with very few field-based actions. The assumption is that once sensitized, the Governments themselves should identify and plan the anti-desertification field projects. The most impressive field projects have recently concerned sand dune stabilization (China, Iran, Mauritania) water improvement (Burkina Faso), rangeland rehabilitation and reforestation, integrated rural development (Niger). Action to restore degraded irrigated lands is difficult and costly; it is easier to institute corrective measures in newly established irrigation schemes. Failure will always result at the national level where a tradition of management has not hitherto existed, and future efforts should be directed at assisting the countries concerned to acquire such knowledge. Frequent and prolonged droughts, especially in Africa, and rapid population growth and unplanned demographic changes, including the problem of the refugees, remained serious obstacles to notable progress. The results so far achieved seem to suggest that a broad-based rural development strategy is the prime issue.

Recommendations 11 and 16: Monitoring physical conditions of the land and human population characteristics (demographics, health, land use, settlements, etc.)

53. Certain provisions of these recommendations were recently carried out in various parts of the world by establishing different monitoring or early warning systems at the international, regional and national levels. At the global level these are represented, for example, by GEMS and GRID, several appropriate monitoring systems of FAO, WHO and WMO, including FAO's regular issue of Food Outlook (the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture) and the Desert Locust Bulletin. At the regional level, there is regular FAO information on weather, food and agricultural conditions in Africa and in the Sahel in particular. At the national level, for example, the Early Warning System Bulletin of Turkana District in Kenya is regularly issued; another is the National Ecological Monitoring Centre in Senegal under the Ministry of Nature Protection, established with financial and technical assistance from UNSO. Yet another development is the initiative of the Government of France to establish a permanent monitoring system for North Africa in a large region covering areas both north and south of the Sahara. However, these activities are insufficiently coordinated, particularly from a methodological point of view, and do not provide a comprehensive picture of the state of affairs on a regular basis. Efforts to this end should be expanded, given the promising beginning.

Recommendations 12-15: Socio-economic aspects of combating desertification

54. As the analysis of numerous reports shows, social, political and economic aspects of desertification have been addressed both nationally and internationally over the last 14 years, but not sufficiently to make a significant impact on the problem. Much work remains to be done if land degradation is to be halted.

Recommendation 17: Insurance against the risk and effects of drought

55. Drought is closely related to desertification, so much so that even within the scientific community, there is a risk of confusing one with the other. For industrialized countries that have large arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid stretches of land areas plagued with recurrent drought, elaborate drought insurance schemes have been put into practice to cushion rural communities from these natural disasters. Since UNCOD, efforts have been made to ensure affected populations, particularly those in Africa, by the institution of "drought early warning systems" and the establishment of grain reserves (imported most of the time) to tide the affected populations over the spell of drought. There have been efforts to institute even more elaborate crop insurance schemes in many of the threatened developing countries, but the economic base on which these are built is weak. The notion of drought risk insurance in drylands should be even more applicable to livestock and rangelands because, in the final analysis, pastoral peoples rely more on their livestock than on their crops. Fourteen years after UNCOD, there is little evidence of a breakthrough in livestock and rangeland insurance against drought risk. For many of the countries concerned, particularly in Africa, foreign aid is still the main insurance against famine during the drought years.

Recommendations 18 to 20: Strengthening science and technology at the national level

56. The PACD clearly identified the lack of scientific and technological capabilities in many developing countries as an obvious obstacle to successful national campaigns against desertification. This issue seems to have received adequate attention. The largest number of anti-desertification projects appear to have been devoted to training, education, information and institution-building. Agricultural research, which is the key to rural development in drylands, has also received much attention. Assistance to developing countries has come in the form of advice, technical and financial support, and training. In the area of energy-related science and technology, some success has been recorded, particularly in respect of two issues: the use of fuel-efficient stoves and solar heating to relieve pressure on fuel wood reserves, in addition to the search for alternative sources of energy.

Recommendation 21: Establishment of national machineries to combat desertification

57. Only a few countries have established special machineries for implementing the PACD at the governmental level. The responsibility was given largely to existing ministries or departments concerned with the environment, forestry or agriculture. Focal points were designated in many countries to provide the liaison and coordination with both regional or international and national institutions concerned with the implementation of the PACD. Nowhere in the world was a hierarchical national machinery established that would include provincial and local authorities, the latter being largely unaware of any national plan or programme to combat desertification. However, a positive example of forthcoming progress may be found in Kenya, where the Ministry of Reclamation and Development of Arid, Semi-Arid Areas and Wasteland was established in 1989. This Ministry is responsible for the integrated development and protection and rehabilitation of the environment in 88 per cent of such Kenyan territory, which involves 22 districts, 25 per cent of the country's populations and 50 per cent of the national livestock. The Ministry reports to the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Environment and then to the National Environment Secretariat in the Office of the President. At local level, the Ministry is planning to establish Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Centres for Management, Training, Demonstration and Adaptive Research in each of the districts to be complemented by Multi-disciplinary Mobile Extension Teams, which are envisaged as the key tool in stimulating dialogue between land users and decision-makers. This machinery started functioning by developing in 1991, the Environmental Action Plan for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands in Kenya to be adopted by the Government.

Recommendation 22: Integration of anti-desertification programmes into development plans

58. Land degradation (desertification) is multi-sectoral in its extent; it would therefore be pointless to create a development sector called "desertification control" and expect it to be funded separately. Consequently, all action against desertification should be included in appropriate sections of general development programmes or strategies. The recent assessment and the discussions in successive sessions of UNEP's Governing Council and DESCON provided guidance in this field. Several countries, including Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Syria and Tunisia, have since developed national plans of action to combat desertification and have managed to integrate them into with national plans of development. Programmes of action to implement these plans were submitted to roundtable meetings of donors for support. Unfortunately, no support was found for considering these plans in their totality.

Recommendations 23 to 28: International action

59. These recommendations have been implemented during the past 14 years at both higher rate and broader scale. Though recognizing that action is primarily the responsibility of Governments with their national institutions, the PACD recognized equally that coordination of national, regional and international programmes in the general campaign against desertification was essential. This role was entrusted to UNEP and its specific organ, the Desertification Control Programme Activity Centre (DC/PAC). In this sense, it was understood that UNEP would work closely with other United Nations bodies, through IAWGD, ACC and DESCON. In the Sudano-Sahelian region of Africa this coordinating role was largely played by UNSO on behalf of UNEP, the former deriving its mandate through the UNDP/UNEP Joint Venture. Their joint role was to elaborate on desertification assessment and control methodologies, coordinate and support scientific and technological research and training, facilitate exchange of information, and provide financial and technical support for the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the PACD. A more detailed account of these activities during the past 14 years is presented in paragraphs 11 to 34 above.

6. Conclusion

60. Unfortunately, little evidence of progress has emerged from the numerous reports concerned directly or indirectly with desertification control, either in relation to the natural resources situation or to agricultural production in the affected regions and countries. Despite all the development and desertification control programmes launched during recent years, the situation has not improved, although there are some local examples of success.

61. Major efforts in implementing the PACD were directed to supporting measures rather than to concrete corrective field operations. As the present assessment shows, the area of lands affected by desertification is not decreasing, although some trees were planted throughout the world and some areas of shifting sands were stabilized. Neither a major improvement of degraded irrigated croplands nor control of soil erosion in rainfed cropland nor substantial improvement of rangelands were achieved. The entire rural environment in the drylands of the world continues to deteriorate, adversely affecting the socio-economic conditions of their inhabitants.