Occupying approximately 41 per cent of the earth’s land area, dryland areas are home to 2.5 billion people – 30 per cent of the world's population. Some 16 per cent of this population lives in chronic poverty. These areas also face several demographic challenges – rapid population growth, high urbanization, large youth populations, and the world’s highest unemployment rate.
Dry area production systems include a diverse mix of food, fodder and fiber crops; vegetables, rangeland and pasture species; fruit and fuel-wood trees; medicinal plants; livestock and fish. They are found where precipitation is low and erratic, and water supply is often the most limiting factor to agricultural production.
Dry areas are also characterized by persistent water scarcity, frequent drought, high climatic variability, and various forms of land degradation, including desertification and loss of biodiversity. This desperate situation is predicted to worsen even further as a result of climate change and shifting weather patterns.