Archive of completed drylands and pastoralist projects

The drylands are home to 2.3 billion people. IIED's drylands programme started in 1987, when ruinous droughts in the African Sahel led people to write off drylands as overexploited wastelands. Through action research, targeted training and wide-ranging publications, IIED and its partners have gathered evidence and shaped policy. Concepts and tools from the programme have been widely adopted by national and regional institutions. This archive page links to past projects managed by IIED in the African drylands, or with pastoralists.

Article, 17 December 2012
Drylands: building climate resilience, productivity and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to act on the implications of climate change for equitable and climate resilient development in the drylands

This video exploring the impact of climate change on pastoralists living in the drylands is one of many videos IIED has helped produce to break down misconceptions and increase understanding of the drylands.

Browse through a selection of short videos on drylands' pastoralists.

Review of IIED's drylands programme: 25 years in the drylands

In 2011 we commissioned an external review of our drylands programme, which ran from 1987-2009. The review applauded our positive portrayal of the drylands, our capacity-building approach and our policy influence. It recommended:

  • A continued geographic focus in West and Eastern Africa (French- and English-speaking countries), and possibly also Southern Africa, with attention to regional policy dialogue and advocacy and continued support to national NGOs
  • A continued focus on capacity building and an expanded focus on access to natural resources (and related conflict management), economic aspects of the drylands, and women and youth
  • Continued publishing opportunities and editorial support for partners and continued strategic dissemination both in print and online, and
  • IIED should continue to operate its research and policy-influencing work from a distance, encouraging African partners'  proposals. Rather than repeating local pilots (scaling out), the review recommend we should work more at national and regional levels (scaling up), intensifying collaboration with training institutes and universities in Africa and Europe to influence content and teaching about the drylands.

This briefing encapsulates main points from the review and discusses IIED's long-term action research in arid East and West Africa: 25 years in the drylands IIED Reflect and Act series, March 2012.

Read the publication in French: 25 ans dans les zones arides.

Understanding pastoral livelihoods and climate change

This project aimed to better understand pastoral strategies in order to improve policy advice through two pieces of research in Niger in 2009-10.

Unblocking the cycle of water stress, crises and innovation in the Bekaa Valley

From 2015-17, IIED explored how to manage water and climate stresses in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, an urbanising dryland region affected by humanitarian emergency. Our analysis suggested entry points for developing a long-term strategic approach to water and environmental stresses in the area, including pilot climate mitigation and adaptation planning processes, pilot investments in municipalities, and enhanced information management on water availability and extraction rates. 

Long-term change in the Malian Sahel: portrait of Dlonguebougou village

IIED has documented social and environmental change in a rural village in the dryland region of central Mali for more than 35 years. The research has examined changes in land use, social structures and livelihoods, and has highlighted growing pressures on land, increasing scarcity of pasture and rising tensions between herding and farming groups. 

Pastoralism Journal: Research, Policy and Practice

IIED and IUCN provided seed funding for the journal Pastoralism: research, policy and practice. The journal publishes interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed articles on extensive livestock production systems around the world. It is committed to publishing material not just by researchers, but also by administrators and field workers. It is available through open access online.

Participatory investment planning for environment, water and energy in the dryland of northern Kenya

During 2016 we supported Isiolo County's Ministry of Water, Energy and Climate Change to develop a multi-sectoral strategic plan by facilitating a series of sub-county level consultations and technical meetings. We published a report that described the process and made recommendations to help the county government prepare its five year plan and budget. 

Generating new perspectives on climate-resilient drylands development

Policymakers often perceive drylands as marginal, disorganised and unstable environments. From 2012-16, IIED worked with partners to show that, with supportive policies, drylands can be sustainable and highly productive ecosystems where pastoralists manage uncertainty and maximise productivity. Project outputs included a workshop, numerous reports and a book, Valuing variability.

Education for Nomads

IIED hosted the first phase of the Education for Nomads programme between 2009 and 2010. Researchers consulted Kenyan nomadic pastoralists, knowledgeable educationists and literature to establish how best to get education to Kenya's nomadic communities without interfering with their mobile pastoral livelihoods.


Haramata – bulletin of the drylands – established itself as a valuable information and networking channel for people working for sustainable development in drylands. Published in English and French, it also sought to bridge the language divide between anglophone and francophone regions.

Supporting pastoral mobility in East and West Africa

This project (2007-2009) aimed to increase our understanding about the importance of livestock mobility in drylands by drawing together lessons from initiatives in ten countries across East and West Africa.

Securing the Commons: In much of Africa, rural populations depend on common property such as rangelands and forests. Securing their access rights is the key to protecting local livelihoods. IIED has worked to support and disseminate innovative ways of securing access to the commons.

Our publication series, also called Securing the Commons, includes French and English language papers that provide information, experience and ideas on land and common property resource management issues across Europe and Africa.

Making decentralisation work

Vulnerable groups like women, young people and pastoralists, are often excluded from the decision making process when governments decentralise power. IIED's making decentralisation work programme responded to policy changes in the African Sahel. We helped build capacity among local people and their institutions, and also within central governments, to support decentralisation as an effective, equitable and sustainable transfer of power.

The Dryland Issue Papers

Read IIED's series of publications called the Dryland Issue Papers.

The Pastoral Land Tenure Papers

Read IIED's series of publications called Pastoral Land Tenure.