DDC in Latin America & the Caribbean

Outside the Amazon River basin, desertification is a growing problem in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Large areas of this region consist of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid lands and most countries have areas falling within the drylands category. In fact, countries such as Argentina and Mexico have more than 70 percent of their territory characterized as drylands. In other countries such as Bolivia and Peru the majority of the population is concentrated in the drylands. From drylands ecosystems in the high mountains to lowland plains, areas vulnerable to desertification cover one third of the continent, which is inhabited by 25 percent of the population. Many of the Caribbean islands also have special desertification problems that are linked to fragile island ecosystems. Desertification in Latin America and the Caribbean is closely connected with socio-economic issues. It affects areas where people live in extreme poverty, and where women head almost 80 percent of the households because of the extensive migration of males to the cities. It also occurs in areas where rich landowners have controlled large holdings of fertile land while leaving the poor to scrape a living on marginal lands affected by desertification. Desertification has only recently been recognized as a major problem in the region.

In spite of positive economic trends in the late 1990s, the number of poor people in LAC as a whole is reported to have jumped from 197 million in 1990 to 209 million in 1994, with gaping disparities in income distribution throughout the region. High levels of poverty are characteristics of the drylands throughout the region, whether in the north-eastern part of Brazil, the Patagonia, the Andes Mountains or the Chiapas.

In LAC, national policies addressing drylands problems often lack integrated approaches that focus on sustainable development. In order to implement the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, countries of the region requested the DDC to support this process. Click here to access a table that provides summary information on UNDP's support to countries in this region in the UNCCD National Action Programme formulation and implementation and the results of this support in each country.