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Building resilience to drought in desertification-prone savannas in Sub-Saharan Africa: The water perspective

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Securing sustainable livelihood conditions and reducing the risk of outmigration in savanna ecosystems hosted in the tropical semiarid regions is of fundamental importance for the future of humanity in general. Although precipitation in tropical drylands, or savannas, is generally more significant than one might expect, these regions are subject to considerable rainfall variability which causes frequent periods of water deficiency. This paper addresses the twin problems of “drought and desertification” from a water perspective, focusing on the soil moisture (green water) and plant water uptake deficiencies. It makes a clear distinction between long-term climate change, meteorological drought, and agricultural droughts and dry spells caused by rainfall variability and land degradation. It then formulates recommendations to better cope with and to build resilience to droughts and dry spells. Coping with desertification requires a new conceptual framework based on green-blue water resources to identify hydrological opportunities in a sea of constraints. This paper proposes an integrated land/water approach to desertification where ecosystem management supports agricultural development to build social-ecological resilience to droughts and dry spells. This approach is based on the premise that to combat desertification, focus should shift from reducing trends of land degradation in agricultural systems to water resource management in savannas and to landscape-wide ecosystem management.
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Keywords: Agricultural water management; Desertification; Drought; Resilience; Water resources

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and the Stockholm Resilience Center 2: Stockholm Resilience Center and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)

Publication date: 01 May 2008

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