Drought preparedness and drought mitigation in the developing world׳s drylands
Drought is one of the major constraints affecting food security and livelihoods of more than two billion people that reside on dry areas which constitute 41% of the world׳s land surface. Drought is defined as deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time resulting in water scarcity. Our best minds should be concentrated where the greatest challenges lie today – on discoveries and new solutions to cope with the challenges facing dry areas particularly drought and water scarcity. In addition to facing severe natural resource constraints caused by the lack of water in many of the developing world׳s drylands, we also have to cope with rapid growth of the younger segment of the growing population, and high levels of poverty. Coping with drought and water scarcity are critical to address major development challenges in dry areas namely poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and social conflict. Drought is a climatic event that cannot be prevented, but interventions and preparedness to drought can help to: (i) be better prepared to cope with drought; (ii) develop more resilient ecosystems (iii) improve resilience to recover from drought; and (iv) mitigate the impacts of droughts. Preparedness strategies to drought include: (a) geographical shifts of agricultural systems; (b) climate-proofing rainfall-based systems; (c) making irrigated systems more efficient; (d) expanding the intermediate rainfed–irrigated systems. The paper presents successful research results and case studies applying some innovative techniques where clear impact is demonstrated to cope with drought and contribute to food security in dry areas. The CGIAR Consortium Research Program (CRP) on “Integrated and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas” (in short, “Dryland Systems”), led by ICARDA, was launched in May 2013 with many partners and stakeholders from 40 countries. It addresses farming systems in dry areas, at a global level, involving 80 partner institutions. The Dryland Systems Program aims at coping with drought and water scarcity to enhance food security and reduce poverty in dry areas through an integrated agro-ecosystem approach. It will also deliver science-based solutions that can be adopted in regions that are not yet experiencing extreme shocks, but will be affected in the medium to long-term. The approach entails shifting the thinking away from the traditional focus on a small number of research components to take an integrated approach aiming to address agro-ecosystems challenges. Such an approach involves crops, livestock, rangeland, trees, soils, water and policies. It is one of the first global research for development efforts that brings “systems thinking” to farming innovations leading to improved livelihoods in the developing world. The new technique uses modern innovation platforms to involve all stakeholders, adopting the value chain concept along a research-to-impact pathway for enhanced food security and improved livelihoods in dry areas.