Introduction to drylands: building climate resilience, productivity and equity
Although Africa’s drylands play an important role in food production, trade, tourism, migration and environmental services, policymakers often disregard well-developed community strategies and institutions for managing and leading sustainable livelihoods from their highly variable environment.
Covering about 40% of the Earth’s land surface, the drylands are home to 2.3 billion people. By developing strategies for managing the constantly changing environment, these people have learnt to take advantage of environmental variability to lead productive and sustainable livelihoods.
But policymakers’ misconceptions mean that government policies rarely support community strategies. Not only does this undermine their well-adapted strategies, it also exposes communities to climate risk.
Our research, training and advocacy aims to amplify the voices of drylands people to inform policy and practice. We hope that improving policymakers’ understanding of dryland dynamics will help increase climate resilience, productivity and equity in these regions. In particular, we aim to:
- Challenge the misconceptions that let policymakers view drylands as unproductive wastelands and pastoralism as a backward and unproductive land use system.
- Ensure knowledge about drylands becomes a mainstream asset of government institutions and civil society advocacy groups by documenting and disseminating research findings to influence policy at national and international levels.
For example, with our partners, we have researched the total economic value of pastoralist systems, and called for a new, more equitable and sustainable policy narrative for drylands.
We have also co-developed training in sustainable pastoralism, drylands planning and a massive open online course (MOOC) on pastoralism in development to strengthen dryland advocates’ capacity to outline the rationale and efficacy of community strategies and improve policymakers’ understanding of the value of dryland production systems in a climate-constrained world.
- Help subnational and national governments make their development planning for drylands more resilient to climate change, and
- Advocate at the global level for policies and laws that support climate adaptive management, engaging with established networks and coalitions to influence policy – for example, through the Coalition of European Lobbies in support of East African Pastoralism.