Experts advise world policies to cope with causes, rising consequences of creeping desertification

ng link in the failed policies.

"Preserving traditional knowledge of the dryland communities is absolutely essential," says Maryam Niamir-Fuller, a Senior Advisor with the United Nations Development Programme. She emphasizes that "the World Initiative on Sustainable Pastoralism is one such effort that UNDP is pursuing to ensure that the wisdom of dryland communities is sufficiently captured and used in formulation of policies."

African forecasting models needed

Fellow conference presenter David Thomas of Oxford University cites predictions of an estimated 182 million deaths in Africa this century attributable to climate change, with up to 750 million additional hungry people in Africa and Asia if average global temperature increases exceed 3C.

Dr. Thomas will call for studies to predict or model the environmental changes people could face in Africa's dryland areas which already constitute half the continent. Specific changes in urgent need of study are changes in drainage densities and water availability, changes in the desert sand seas, and changes in savanna shrub cover due to carbon fertilization.

How the Algiers conference will help

Says Prof. Hans van Ginkel, UN Under Secretary-General and Rector of UNU: "Desertification is a major threat, and the benefits of combating desertification in terms of poverty reduction and global environmental security are enormous. So why are governments and international development partners not doing a better job" Why have so many mistakes been repeated and why is success more often achieved in spite of policy directions, rather than because of them"

"The answer in part lies in the way policy decisions are informed often on the basis of inaccurate or biased information, and without the benefit of comparative experience. A wealth of experience in combating desertification has been amassed around the world, but is routinely ignored by policy-makers.

Contact: Terry Collins
United Nations University

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