World Desertification Day: Concerted Effort in Global Resilience to Turn Back Drought and Desertification

June 16, 2017


A dried lake near Oruro (Bolivia) - © Andy Shuai Liu / World Bank

  • Climate and disaster risks, including drought and desertification, threaten economic growth and development gains globally.
  • In response, the World Bank, governments, international agencies, and communities are working to develop operational and technical assistance in the most vulnerable regions.
  • With consistent, systematic, and collective effort, global achievements have and can be preserved and enhanced, however, critical intervention is required.

As we mark World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought tomorrow, notable strides have been achieved in building resilience to these issues globally. From Africa to Asia, concerted effort has led to gains in development, and all regions are experiencing economic growth.  to preserving these achievements.

by impeding growth in strategic sectors such as agriculture, water resource management, and urban development.  As was discussed at the recent World Reconstruction Conference (WRC3), these risks, compounded further by fragility and conflict situations, are on the rise in many parts of the world.  

Countries across Africa and the Middle East, many of which are in conflict situations, are confronting this now, with 20 million people across these two regions currently facing famine from a prolonged drought.   Future trends predict that

In East Asia, Vietnam recently experienced its worst drought in 90 years. The El Niño-induced disaster impacted 83 percent of the country’s provinces, affecting over 2 million people. In Indonesia, the rainy season did not start when expected, due to El Niño. The UN estimates that in severely drought-affected districts, 3 million Indonesians live below the poverty line, and 1.2 million of these people rely on rainfall for food production and for their livelihood.

At this critical crossroads, , especially when it comes to combating desertification and drought. In response to these challenges, the World Bank and partners have set up programs to strategically tackle drought, desertification, and impending climate risks. 

" Droughts, climate change, land degradation, and desertification are closely interrelated. The World Bank group is working with countries around the world to help build resilience to the growing economic, environmental, and social challenges we face today, including drought and desertification. "

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice

Some examples of programs and projects that work from the ground up to build resilience against natural and climate-induced disasters, such as drought and desertification, include:

  • In Africa, to help countries better manage these challenges in the future, the World Bank, with support from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), has put together the “Africa Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Strategic Framework 2016-2020,” which charts the way toward developing disaster and climate resilience in the region.
  • The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative is a pan-African program launched in 2007 by the African Union to address land degradation and desertification, boost food and water security, and support communities to adapt to climate change.  The Sahel and West Africa Program (SAWAP) is a $1.1 billion World Bank and GEF contribution to the Initiative focusing on 12 countries. 
  • In Somalia, the Drought Management and Livelihood Protection Project provided targeted emergency support to drought affected populations. It offered cash for work to preserve the livelihoods of communities and distributed agricultural inputs, livestock feed, and veterinary services to support the recovery of agriculture and livestock production.
  • In Malawi, two consecutive disasters – devastating floods from 2014-2015 and dry spells between 2015-2016 – led to agricultural drought and widespread crop failure, leaving over 6.7 million people food insecure.  The GFDRR conducted a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), which, along the with Government of Malawi’s Food Insecurity Response Plan and drought recovery strategy, informed the design of the Malawi Drought Recovery and Resilience Project (MDRRP), allowing more than 1.6 million people to recover from drought and build resilience against future shocks.
  • Given its harsh experience with drought, Ethiopia has established one of the world’s largest safety-net programs with World Bank support, allowing the country to plan in advance before drought strikes.
  • In China, the Ningxia Desertification Control and Ecological Protection Project supports the government’s efforts to address and reverse desertification and degradation through treatment of sand dunes and degraded sand land, shrub planting and vegetation restoration, and other ecological protection measures, directly benefiting about 3 million residents and protecting key infrastructure facilities on the eastern bank of the Yellow River.  People living as far as Beijing or Tianjin also indirectly benefit, as the project areas are located in a wind corridor affecting major parts of northern China and have been identified as one of the major sources of sandstorms.
  • Exacerbated by climate change, the impact of natural disasters on Morocco’s economy amounts to an average of US$ 800 million per year and causes significant human casualties. A GFDRR-supported multi-hazard risk assessment informed the Integrated Disaster Risk Management and Resilience operation, which introduces a comprehensive approach to managing natural disasters, including drought, by combining institutional reforms with disaster risk-reduction investments and the introduction of a catastrophe risk insurance program.
  • With Afghanistan’s Irrigation Restoration and Development Project (IRDP), agricultural production has increased as the farmers are now able to cultivate areas of their land that were previously uncultivable because of the lack of irrigation. The IRDP supports the rehabilitation of irrigation systems serving some 300,000 hectares of land across the country. So far, a total of 98 irrigation schemes has been rehabilitated, covering 100,000 hectares of irrigation command area and benefiting over 63,000 farmers.
  • Pakistan is vulnerable to a number of adverse natural events and has experienced a wide range of disasters over the past 40 years, including floods, earthquakes, droughts, cyclones, and tsunamis. These hazards are due to an active floodplain fed by snow and glacial melt from three mountain ranges – Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush, its location on a seismically active geological plate, a predominantly semi-arid landmass, and a coastline frequented by cyclonic events. The Disaster and Climate Resilience Improvement Project (DCRIP) is helping the government to manage disasters and climate variability.

“Resilience is key to protecting hard-won development gains” emphasized Sameh Wahba, World Bank Director of Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management, and Resilience. “Collective effort has driven achievements in resilience thanks to ongoing strategic planning and effective implementation, but much still needs to be done. The time for action is now.”