Science and civil society

In the fight against desertification

Issue 6 40 pp. • Published in October 2007

Author(s): Bied-Charreton Marc, Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

Scientific research in and on drylands truly began at the beginning of the 20th century. It was first developed in a colonial context with the ultimate aim of adding value to the land. It expanded again during the independence years for States, particularly in Africa. The major droughts of the 1970s gave a new impulse to this research. The efforts were devoted to making inventories of ecosystems as well as their functioning. Human and social sciences emphasised land tenure issues, demography, migrations and economic anthropology. However, we should not forget that since the invention of agriculture and livestock breeding, farmers and herders were the first to observe their own environment.

Faced with the major problems which have emerged since the end of the 20th century, the basic question is to know how to combine traditional knowledge with progress due to scientific research. The increase in population, the climate change and the global market require that solutions be found to overcome land degradation.

This CSFD file attempts to describe the civil society of countries affected by desertification and the way in which farmers, livestock breeders and politicians take decisions, which parameters and information they need and how scientists can meet these needs. It also describes the contribution of some research-development projects that the CSFD selected and monitored at the beginning of the 21st century. These projects, financed by the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and French and African scientific institutes, were undertaken through North-South scientific partnerships and partnerships between researchers and users of research for some themes which are particular to the fight against desertification. To conclude, the file raises the issue of the transfer of knowledge from researchers towards the final users and suggests that attention be paid to media or intermediary bodies between researchers and civil society.

    Bied-Charreton Marc

    Bied-Charreton Marc

    Professor Emeritus, UVSQ (France)

    Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

    Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

    Trainer and researcher, social sciences, IAMM-CIHEAM

    Sciences et société civile

    Dossier du CSFD 6  •  2007

    Sciences et société civile

    Dans le cadre de la lutte contre la désertification


Editing, production and distribution of Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD are fully supported by this Committee thanks to the support of relevant French Ministries and AFD (French Development Agency).

  • Ministère de l'Education nationale, de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche
  • Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international
  • Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire
  • Agence Française de Développement (AFD)


The opinions expressed in these reports are endorsed by the Committee.


Comité Scientifique Français de la Désertification
Agropolis International
1000 avenue Agropolis
F-34394 Montpellier CEDEX 5 •  France
Tel.: +33 (0)4 67 04 75 73• email:

Log in

Log in

Website by Olivier Piau (Agropolis Productions) - Webmaster: Laurence Monin (Agropolis International)
© 2013-2015 Comité Scientifique Français de la Désertification (CSFD)


thématiques du CSFD

Mankind is now confronted with an issue of worldwide concern, i.e. desertification, which is both a natural phenomenon and a process induced by human activities. Our planet and natural ecosystems have never been so degraded by our presence. Long considered as a local problem, desertification is now a global issue of concern to all of us, including scientists, decision makers, citizens from both developed and developing countries. Within this setting, it is urgent to boost the awareness of civil society to convince it to get involved. People must first be given the elements necessary to better understand the desertification phenomenon and the concerns. Everyone should have access to relevant scientific knowledge in a readily understandable language and format.

Within this scope, the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD) has decided to launch a series entitled Les dossiers thématiques du CSFD, which is designed to provide sound scientific information on desertification, its implications and stakes. This series is intended for policy makers and advisers from developed and developing countries, in addition to the general public and scientific journalists involved in development and the environment. It also aims at providing teachers, trainers and trainees with additional information on various associated disciplinary fields. Lastly, it endeavours to help disseminate knowledge on the combat against desertification, land degradation, and poverty to stakeholders such as representatives of professional, nongovernmental, and international solidarity organisations.

These Dossiers are devoted to different themes such as global public goods, remote sensing, wind erosion, agroecology, pastoralism, etc, in order to take stock of current knowledge on these various subjects. The goal is also to outline debates around new ideas and concepts, including controversial issues; to expound widely used methodologies and results derived from a number of projects; and lastly to supply operational and academic references, addresses and useful websites. These Dossiers are to be broadly circulated, especially within the countries most affected by desertification, by email, through our website, and in print. Your feedback and suggestions will be much appreciated!

Scientific editing and iconography: Isabelle Amsallem, Agropolis Productions
Design and production: Olivier Piau, Agropolis Productions