Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

2010–2020: UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification

Global Value

Photo: Dipesh C. ShahDrylands are home to 2.1 billion people; for every three people, one calls drylands home. Drylands meet the basic needs of a significant proportion of the world, but are under threat. They harbor some of the world's most valuable and rarest biodiversity. They are major contributors to the world's breadbasket, considering that one in every three crops under cultivation today has its origins in the drylands. They are valuable indigenous food vaults because the wild ancestors and relatives of these plants still grow there. Drylands support 50% of the world's livestock, are wildlife habitats and account for nearly half of all cultivated systems.

Basic Drylands Facts

Definition of drylands 1

Drylands are defined by their aridity. They cover four zones:

Level of Aridity Dominant ecosystem
hyper-arid desert
arid semi-desert
semi-arid grassland
dry-sub-humid rangelands

The term drylands generally excludes deserts.

Size of Deserts and Drylands

Value of Drylands for Livelihoods

Land Degradation and Improvements 2



Impact of Inaction on Land Degradation 3

110 countries at risk of land degradation. 12 million hectares of land, an area the size of Benin, are lost every year. Annual land lost could produce 20 million tons of grain. US$42 billion in income is lost every year from desertification and land degradation.

1 All data from 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment otherwise clarified.

2 Data from 2010, GEF-STAP, New Science, New Opportunities for GEF-5 and Beyond. Report to the 4th General Assembly.

3 Data from 2009, UNCCD. Securitizing the Ground, Grounding Security.