FOOD & NUTRITION
Improving food and nutrition security in dryland countries will help to reduce poverty and encourage sustainable agricultural development in these countries. In all developing countries and in dryland countries in particular, there is a clear link between poverty and food insecurity. Most of the poor are either undernourished or food insecure. Lower income households spend a large share of their income to buy food. They are particularly vulnerable to variations in food prices and food scarcity during periods of conflict, political disturbance or natural disasters.
Food insecurity is a multidimensional development challenge and nutrition is a central component of that challenge. Undernourishment is also a constraint to economic growth. As people are not able to work and their body and intellectual capacities are affected by under nourishment, the overall potential for economic growth is curtailed. The issue is of great importance in dryland regions, where in some countries, every third child under five years is malnourished (Egypt and Sudan), and in other dryland countries almost two thirds of the children are stunted (Yemen).
Nutrition is, thereby, a key component of the work of GDA to fight food insecurity in dryland countries.
Access to reliable modern energy in drylands is very low. Less than 20 % of the population have access to mains electricity in most African IDB member countries with rural populations having less than five percent access. This is a key barrier to enhancing agriculture and livestock productivity, food security, socio economic development and the diversification of livelihoods.
Increased agricultural productivity is a primary driver for food security and agriculture continues to be a dominant source of employment in drylands. Energy access is key to increasing productivity all along the agriculture value chain, from farm to market. Growing food crops requires energy inputs for land preparation, planting, irrigation, harvesting and post-harvest processing.
As dryland countries and regions vary considerably, so do the challenges to energy access. In rural areas the low population densities, large distances and a lack of infrastructure result in high costs, whilst the poverty of the population makes it difficult for them to pay for household or agriculture energy and the demand is limited. Furthermore, the lack of effective regulatory regime, lack of capacity or institutional support within governments, and the lack of decentralized capacity to address technology and affordability conditions present further challenges.
The dryland ecosystems are fragile in nature. Fresh water scarcity, lack of arable land, overgrazing of pastures, deforestation and low agricultural productivity make dryland farming vulnerable. Inadequate irrigation water in farm production systems may increase soil salinity under marginal soil and water conditions. In addition, severe water stress in the drylands has resulted in scarce safe drinking water for over a third of drylands’ population.
There are many challenges to water use in food security which should be addressed urgently in order to utilize water resources efficiently and to prevent further depletion and scarcity.
LAND & SOIL
Land degradation threatens our capacity to feed a growing world population that is estimated to be over nine billion by 2050. The demand for food is projected to grow by 50% (compared to present levels) by 2030. Meeting these demands would require 175 million to 220 million hectares of additional cropland.
The direct causes of land degradation and desertification are unsustainable agriculture, overgrazing by livestock, and overexploitation of forests and woodlands. Unsustainable practices in irrigation and production may lead to increased salinization of soil, nutrient depletion and erosion. An estimated 950 million hectares of salt affected lands occur in arid and semi-arid regions, nearly 33 percent of the potentially arable land area of the world.
Avoiding degradation of new lands is an important priority. Future strategies should focus on non-depletion of new lands as well as increasing the productivity of existing farm lands.