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Semi-arid Tropics

The drylands are home to the deepest pockets of poverty on earth. The incidence of poverty is highest in rural areas, where agriculture is the main occupation. Nearly every year, drought and hunger hit hard somewhere in the drylands. Though the external image of the tropical drylands is one of perennial crisis and suffering, there are signs of hope.

40% - The global area occupied by drylands

2.5 billion - The number of people living in the drylands

644 million - Poorest of the poor inhabit the drylands

1/3 - The number of people who depend on agriculture


The semi-arid tropics have long been viewed with pessimism and hopelessness. International science challenges this view. Researchers recognize that dryland farmers — despite their poverty — are extremely knowledgeable about the crops and the systems that sustain them. Experience has shown that their knowledge and experience, when coupled with modern agricultural science and supported within a framework of inclusive market-based solutions, can lead to substantial increases in productivity and provide a permanent pathway out of poverty. 

The world’s tropical drylands covers some 55 countries across thousands of kilometers of tropical Asia and Africa.  With few resources at their disposal, and with limited access to markets, the region’s farmers routinely face drought conditions that marginalize their farming operations and condemn their families to a recurring cycle of poverty and hunger.  By all accounts, the semi-arid tropics will be especially hard hit by global climate change, a phenomenon that many observers believe has already taken hold.  


Semi-Arid Tropics
The Semi-Arid Tropics