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SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): Nessim Ahmad, a resource economist at IFAD, outlined a number of socio-economic processes that lead to unsustainable agriculture and poverty in dryland areas. He listed contributing international processes including: declining commodity prices; barriers to international trade; declining official development assistance; and the lack of adequate transfer of technology. At the national level, policy frameworks often hinder sustainable dryland development. These policies include: structural adjustment programmes; inappropriate sectoral agricultural pricing policies; a bias toward export crops; and social policies, such as the settlement of nomadic populations. A third set of processes are those related to institutional issues, including: the nature of land tenure regimes, the lack of rural financial services and credit, technology systems, infrastructure and supply channels, markets, and educational, health and other services. Other processes that have a negative impact include: gender and ethnic biases, demographic processes (particularly population growth and migration processes), and external shock.

To deal with the processes listed above, traditional coping strategies include: risk-minimizing strategies (adjustments to production and resource use before and during a production season) and loss-management strategies (responses to lower-than-expected crop production caused by natural hazards). Trends in coping strategies have shown: 1) risk minimizing agricultural strategies are narrowing; 2) strategies that relied on social support and reciprocity for overcoming food deficits are eroding due to recurrent droughts; and 3) the responsibility has moved from the local community to the national government and NGOs, through food relief programmes.

In the discussion that followed, Mali said that drought and desertification are not socio-economic problems but socio-ecological problems. He argued that the presentation speaks too much of the virtues of structural adjustment programmes, saying that developing states are told to open their markets while developed countries protect their markets. Brazil brought up the impact of structural adjustment programmes and world trading patterns on dryland producers. Sweden advocated broadening horizons beyond the drylands to include radical ideas for dryland development, suggesting that drylands may be a major generator of solar energy. Ghana mentioned useful traditional values that have preserved drylands. Iran stressed the need to focus on poverty eradication in the Convention and Madagascar mentioned the role of women in addressing problems of desertification.

World Bank: Hassan M. Hassan, Senior Environment Specialist, presented a paper on behalf of John English that was based on the Bank's experiences. Using examples drawn from Machakos, Kenya, the Kano Close Settled Zone in Nigeria, and cotton production in West Africa, he demonstrated the adaptation of agricultural systems to accommodate population growth and effective production-oriented programmes. He noted that the primary problem in tackling land degradation is the marginalization of these areas in relation to others in the country. The remedy is to link development programmes in these regions to the main centers of economic activity. This would also involve providing incentives to farmers, such as guaranteed long-term benefits for their products, and diversifying economic activities. However, he pointed out that land rights were not a significant factor in the adoption of new programmes. He proposed policy elements including: the raising of the value of farm products; economically and technically viable land use programmes; diversified farming approaches; farming methods derived from farmer-to-farmer visits; diversification of income sources; and seasonal or permanent out-migratory practices. He emphasized the need for information and research and the need to develop cross-boundary solutions.

In the discussion, France asked the meaning of "marginal areas." He pointed out that emphasis on farm products, based on the Bank's proposal to guarantee income, could undermine national policies and financial institutions. Benin argued that the production of cotton not only requires high farm inputs but also accelerates land degradation when forest areas are cleared. Burkina Faso pointed out that seasonal and permanent migrations are radical solutions with adverse effects as they disrupt habitats. The Chair pointed out that the views expressed in this paper were not those of the World Bank.

UNSO: Moustapha Soumar‚, technical advisor to UNSO, spoke on the role of planning systems and instruments, integration of desertification control programmes in development plans in the Sudano-Sahelian Region. He noted past strategies in combatting desertification and explained how these experiences compelled planners to integrate anti-desertification plans into overall development programmes. He stated the challenges as: poverty, marginalization of populations, irregular rainfall, increasing vulnerability of production systems, the fragility of resources, and administrative weaknesses. He cited the reasons for planning problems in the region, including: lack of political commitment to economic planning, weaknesses of planning structures, and management capacity. Decentralization of planning and the broader participation of populations concerned must form the new paradigm. He spoke about UNSO's efforts toward greater harmonization of planning methods and agreements for a single strategic framework for each country, the role of other agencies in supporting this framework, and the need for preliminary consultations in countries without a framework. He stated that the planning process must include development of local technical capacity. Furthermore, there is a need for reforms in both land tenure and modalities for utilizing natural resources. Planning coordination can be improved through decentralization, regionalization of plans, privatization in certain development sectors, donor harmonization, and intensification of monitoring. He concluded by emphasizing that the development of the people's capacity to plan, negotiate and take decisions should serve as the guide for the definition of incentives to combat desertification. Discussion on this presentation will begin on Wednesday morning.

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