Where We Work

Where We Work
Photo: UNDP

The UNDP Drylands Development Centre (DDC) is specialized in assisting countries in the drier regions of the world to fight poverty and encourage development.

Drylands refer to land areas where the mean annual precipitation (P) to potential evapotranspiration (PET = potential evaporation from soil plus transpiration by plants) ranges from 0.05 to 0.65. They include arid land (0.05-0.20), semi-arid land (0.20-0.50) and dry sub-humid land (0.50-0.65). Drylands cover more than 40% of the earth's surface and are inhabited by some 2.3 billion people. Over one billion people from the developing world depend on the drylands' natural resources for their livelihoods, the majority of whom are at constant risk of food insecurity and poverty. They are often plagued with recurrent droughts and aridity, insufficient infrastructure and limited investment, the lowest level of renewable water supply and the highest population growth.

Significant development assistance has gone to dry areas, but the bulk has been to provide emergency and humanitarian relief. The contribution of drylands to national economic growth is often grossly underestimated. Policy-makers often do not look at the drylands as an important contributor to the national economy and exclude these areas from macro-economic strategies, directing most development investments to what is considered high potential areas. Governments throughout the world tend to marginalize their dry areas by not providing adequate services: health, education, water and markets. Many of the challenges to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are at their most acute in the drylands. Given that close to half of the world’s poor - one billion people - live in drylands, achieving the MDGs will not be possible unless life is improved for the poor people in these ecosystems.

The future of the drylands of the world need not be bleak. Many of the most developed parts of the world are surprisingly dry: Australia, the Great Plains of North America and major cities like New Delhi and Mexico. Up to 44% of all the world's cultivated systems are in the drylands and rangelands in these ecosystems support 50% of the world's livestock. What has been lacking for years is adequate attention to the drylands, a proper understanding of the needs and potential of dryland communities coupled with adequate investment. UNDP-DDC is positioned to help, in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, to reverse these trends and bring true development to places that have been associated only with poverty and need.

Drylands can effectively contribute to poverty alleviation and economic growth. They provide crop and rangeland resources, forest products, energy and minerals. They offer great potential for tourism, entailing both ecotourism and cultural tourism, associated with unique wildlife species and habitats, historical and religious sites and diverse tribal communities' cultures. Mobile pastoralism in the drylands provides a highly efficient way of managing the sparse vegetation and relatively low fertility of drylands soils. It is estimated that drylands rangelands support about 50% of the world's livestock. Beyond pastoralism, drylands have great economic and ecological potential, including products such as gum Arabic, gum talha, frankincense and myrrh, medicinal plants such as aloe vera, biofuels such as Jatropha, and more. Drylands are also important extensive carbon sinks particularly in grasslands. It has recently been estimated that 59% of Africa's carbon is in the drylands.

The Integrated Drylands Development Programme (IDDP) aims to tap into these potentials and support sustainable development in the drylands of the world. If you want to know more about what we do, please click here.

For more information on the regions we cover, click any of the links below: