Land degradation is an underestimated global concern with far-reaching
implications affecting the ability of land to provide food and incomes. Globally, a
large portion of the vulnerable human populations—the rural poor—live on
degrading and less-favored agricultural lands without market access.
Heterogeneous solutions that ensure both economic and environmental
sustainability are needed at multiple scales.
On a policy level, awareness of land and soil degradation is increasing. Last year
all countries adopted a set of goals as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development. The specific goal on land degradation includes a commitment for
countries to take steps to achieve a land-degradation neutral world. This
commitment is universal; it will apply to developed as well as developing countries
and covers lands with sufficient rainfalls for agriculture as well as drylands across
However, a recent publication claims ‘the end of desertification’ and calls for a
more nuanced approach to the serious problem of global land degradation that
moves away from the emotional rhetoric of expanding deserts and sand-covered
villages, forcing people to migrate into an uncertain future.1 Such doom and gloom
stories dominated international discussions in the late 20th century and provided
the arguments for the establishment of a UN Convention to Combat
Desertification, which is now specifically addressing this issue. Others have
countered this direction of thoughts with a more optimistic view of how populations
can survive by building on traditional knowledge in a new paradigm for people,
ecosystems, and development.
Authors and Publishers
The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) was established in 1977. It is one of 15 such centers supported by the CGIAR. ICARDA’s founding mandate to promote agricultural development in the dry areas of developing countries remains highly relevant today.