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The World's Dry Areas

Roughly 2.5 billion people – 30 percent of the world’s population – live in the dry areas, which cover more than 40 percent of the world’s land surface. Scarce natural resources, land degradation and frequent droughts severely challenge food production in these areas.

Approximately 1/3 of the population living in drylands depends on agriculture for their food security and livelihoods – often as their only source of income. Drylands are home to the poorest and most marginalized people in the world, with 16 percent of the population living in chronic poverty.

Productivity in dryland regions face a multitude of challenges – persistent water scarcity, frequent droughts, high climatic variability, various forms of land degradation, including desertification, and loss of biodiversity.

Climate change is projected to affect the people living in dry areas and marginal lands the worst. In the developing world, dryland productivity is further hampered by many socioeconomic factors, such as limited access to technology, poor market linkages, weak institutions, lack of partnerships, and marginalization of rural people.

Quick Facts on the World's Dry Areas

  • Cover 41 percent of the earth’s surface
  • Inhabited by 30 percent of the world’s population (2.5 billion people)
  • Support 50 percent of the world’s livestock
  • Grow 44 percent of the world’s food
  • Account for the majority of the world’s poor, with around 16 percent living in chronic poverty
  • Most of the world’s poor live in dry areas – with 400 million living on less than $1.25 per day
  • Drylands lose 23 hectares per minute to drought and desertification – a loss of 20 million tons of potential grain production every year.