Soil and Water Conservation, Addressing Desertification and Drought

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Fragile ecosystems include deserts, semi-arid lands, mountains, wetlands, small islands and certain coastal areas. Most of these ecosystems are regional in scope, as they transcend individual and local boundaries. Desertification is land degradation (including decline in soil fertility and soil structure) in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.


  • Soil and water conservation facts
  • Methods of soil conservation
  • Soil conservation practices to combat poverty
  • Developing comprehensive anti-desertification programs
  • Open source sharing solutions to prevent drought

People's Agenda 21, Ideas for the betterment of humanity, serving the highest good of all


Decisions regarding appropriate planting and harvesting of vegetation are key to the ability of surface soils to retain their integrity. Improved water management practices optimize the use of water and minimize the environmental impact of water use on the natural environment.

Ideas for those interested in implementation

  • Support work groups and coordination centers to create effective action and education
  • Support networks for the action of addressing land degradation and desertification and exploring areas for economic opportunity
  • Support a permanent system for creating and exploring education, volunteer opportunities, economic/job opportunities related to desertification and land degradation
  • Create or assist existing programs  in taking action on addressing desertification and spreading awareness


In addressing desertification on rangeland, rain-fed cropland and irrigated land, preventative measures can be launched in areas which are not yet affected or are only slightly affected by desertification; corrective measures can be implemented to sustain the productivity of moderately desertified land; and rehabilitative measures can be taken to recover severely or very severely desertified drylands.

Ideas for those interested in implementation

  • Ensure appropriate management of existing natural formations (including forests) for the conservation of biodiversity, watershed protection, sustainability of their production and agricultural development, and other purposes, with the full participation of indigenous people
  • Get involved with community forestry in activities to increase the vegetation cover and support management of biotic resources in regions affected or prone to desertification and drought
  • Reduce woodfuel consumption through more efficient utilization, conservation and the enhancement, development and use of other sources of alternative sources of energy
  • Create or assist existing programs in the protection and conservation of special ecological areas through actions addressing desertification while ensuring the protection of biodiversity
  • Support community-based people’s organizations


In most of the arid and semi-arid areas, the traditional livelihood systems based on agropastoral systems are often inadequate and what many consider unsustainable, particularly in view of the effects of drought and increasing demographic pressure. Poverty is a potential factor in accelerating the rate of degradation and desertification. Action is therefore needed to rehabilitate and improve the agropastoral systems for sustainable management of rangelands, as well as alternative livelihood systems.

Ideas for those interested in implementation

  • Create the capacity of village communities and pastoral groups to take charge of their development and the management of their land resources on a socially equitable and ecologically sound basis
  • Create or help support rural organizations in charge of village and pastoral land management
  • Create or help support village associations focused on economic activities of common pastoral interest (market gardening, transformation of agricultural products, livestock, herding, etc.)
  • Develop infrastructure, as well as local production and marketing capacity, by involving the local people to demonstrate alternative livelihood systems and alleviate poverty


In a number of developing locations affected by desertification, the natural resource base is the main resource upon which the development process can rely. Action plans to alleviate desertification and drought can include management aspects of the environment and development.

Ideas for those interested in implementation

  • Support individual and local efforts to develop appropriate anti-desertification programs
  • Create or assist existing programs for the development, protection and management of natural resources in dryland areas into development plans, including plans to avoid or reverse desertification
  • Initiate a long-term process for exploring and monitoring strategies related to natural resources management
  • Undertake anti-desertification awareness/education campaigns within locations affected


Drought, in differing degrees of frequency and severity, is a recurring phenomenon throughout much of the developing world. Integrated packages at the farm and watershed level, such as alternative cropping strategies, soil and water conservation and demonstration of water harvesting techniques, could enhance the capacity of land to cope with drought and provide basic necessities, thereby minimizing the number of environmental refugees and the need for emergency drought relief.

Ideas for those interested in implementation

  • Develop individual and local strategies for drought preparedness in both the short and long term, aimed at reducing the vulnerability of production systems to drought
  • Help support the flow of early-warning information to decision makers and land users to enable implementation of drought intervention strategies
  • Support contingency arrangements for water, food and fodder distribution
  • Support applied research on ways of reducing water loss from soils, on ways of increasing the water absorption capacities of soils and on water harvesting techniques in drought-prone areas
  • Engage community efforts in addressing desertification, drawing on the knowledge and experience of the populations concerned, ensuring the full participation of  indigenous populations

People's Agenda 21, Ideas for the betterment of humanity, serving the highest good of all