Dryland Systems has a tight focus. Each geographic area is unique and holds its own set of challenges and opportunities. As a result, Dryland Systems will prioritize different parts of the agricultural value chain according to needs in mandate areas.
These needs were evaluated in the Inception Phase and outlined in the Inception Phase Report, serving as an overview of the socioeconomic and biophysical state of the Program’s five target regions. Its purpose is to identify and prioritize research that reduces vulnerability in more marginal agricultural systems, and sustainably intensifies systems that have greater production potential.
The report outlines data and information on a range of variables, including climate, soil, land use, land degradation, and water resources. It also highlights major constraints, partners, and ‘impact pathways’ in each of the five target regions.
The report further outlines how and why target regions were chosen and how they are categorized for the purposes of CRP1.1. From the initial regional consultations it became clear that selected target areas are at different stages of development and confronted by different challenges. As a result, the entry points for the CRP in target regions vary - as do their needs and opportunities.
In the West African Sahel and Dry Savannas, initial consultations revealed serious challenges confronting attempts to reduce vulnerability and sustainable intensification: drought, poverty, soil nutrient mining, and soil erosion. Poor infrastructure and a lack of institutional support for agriculture also greatly affect the region. Restricted livestock mobility and expansion of cropping onto marginal lands formerly used for grazing pose serious challenges to both pastoral and agro-pastoral systems. Deforestation driven by demographic pressure is an additional regional concern.
Despite these constraints, significant opportunities exist: more effectively linking smallholder producers to regional livestock markets, increasing the productive capacity of farmers through improved access to inputs and technology, and providing sound options for better cropping and land-management systems. The CRP aims to improve the lives of 23 million people in the West African Sahel and Dry Savannas region and to mitigate land degradation on over 200,000 km2.
In East and Southern Africa major swaths of agricultural land are categorized as arid or semi-arid, and frequent droughts affect livestock and crop production. Vulnerability to drought is exacerbated by poor infrastructure, a lack of political will, and limited market engagement. Although subsidies for much-needed soil inputs and extension services offer a means to cope with adverse environmental conditions, attention is needed to ensure they do not discourage entrepreneurial activities. The CRP aims to improve the lives of 20 million people in East and Southern Africa, and to mitigate land degradation on 600,000 km2 .
Currently, in North Africa and West Asia aquifer degradation is a pressing problem that will be exacerbated in the near future by climate change. Outward migration, farm fragmentation, and rejection of agricultural and pastoral lifestyles are also threatening the sustainability of farming. Despite this, the region is well connected to markets in Europe and has the potential to compete in those markets. The CRP aims to improve the lives of 1.1 million people in North Africa and West Asia, and to mitigate land degradation on 18,600 km2.
In Central Asia and the Caucasus one of the major needs is for appropriate levels of mechanization for relatively large-scale farms. Farmers often lack experience and therefore need access to specialized irrigation training in order to better utilize the significant, but saline, water resources in their area. The CRP 1.1 aims to improve the lives of 500,000 people in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and to mitigate land degradation on 2,900 km2.
In South Asia major swaths of land are classified as hyper-arid, usable only as rangeland for ruminants. In areas where irrigated agriculture is possible, soil and water salinity are major problems. However, with a few exceptions, groundwater resources are not being over exploited. Greater levels of mechanization are a key priority for efforts to sustainably increase yields in areas of higher production potential. The CRP aims to improve the lives of 65 million people in South Asia, and to mitigate land degradation on 465,000 km2.