Why we should invest in arid areas?

Issue 5 40 pp. • Published in August 2007

Author(s): Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

The issue of economic costs and in particular macroeconomic costs of the degradation of land is slowly becoming a priority one in international meetings on the development of dry regions. It is also being combined with the cost of inaction revealed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2005. However, there are not many practical studies of the cost of degradation of land on a national level and furthermore the few there are not referenced very well in scientific publications. This article will describe different studies undertaken mainly by the World Bank, their methods and limitations as well as their results. Two types of approach can be distinguished on the whole: (i) modelling principally based on understanding processes of rainfall erosion, based on plot surveys and (ii) furthermore more spatial approaches dividing the areas affected according to the main economic activities which take place there. The results show that the cost of desertification is often equal to or greater than the agricultural growth of the countries concerned which brings into question the reality or sustainability of their rural development.

Analyses of the rate of return on investments in the fight against desertification are still inadequate. Referring to several key studies on this issue and a review of several anti-desertification projects, the document shows that the rates of return of successful projects are often under-evaluated because they are generally limited to agricultural production gains. However the delays in return on investment observed for the rehabilitation of degraded land can also explain why anti-desertification projects are so poorly deployed among local populations who are not able to bear the cost. Finally we consider investment in the recovery and maintenance of land as a motor of rural development. Should one not as well in order to fight against desertification, promote small industries producing products from dry regions as well as ecotourism or service activities? 

    Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

    Requier-Desjardins Mélanie

    Trainer and researcher, social sciences, IAMM-CIHEAM

    Pourquoi faut-il investir en zones arides ?

    Dossier du CSFD 5  •  2007

    Pourquoi faut-il investir en zones arides ?


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.


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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