The economics of resilience in the drylands of
Sub-Saharan Africa

The World Bank in collaboration with FAO, TerrAfrica, CILSS, WRI, PROFOR, CIRAD, Africa Re-greening Initiative & CGIAR Centers –

The World Bank is teaming up with a number of partners to prepare a report designed to contribute to the ongoing dialogue among policy makers and development practitioners about measures to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in drylands regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Based on analysis of current and projected future drivers of vulnerability and resilience, the report will identify promising interventions, quantify their likely costs and benefits, and describe the policy trade-offs that will need to be addressed when strategies are devised for the sustainable development of drylands.

Why do we need a new report?

Emerging initiatives suggest that a large coalition of African governments, regional organizations, development partners, multilateral and bilateral lending institutions, and civil society organizations stands ready to tackle the challenges confronting dryland regions. But while political will backed by resources does not seem to be lacking, important questions remain unanswered about how the task should be addressed.

  • Do dryland environments contain sufficient resources to generate the food, employment, and income needed to support sustainable livelihoods for a fast growing population?
  • If not, can injections of external resources make up the deficit?
  • Or is the carrying capacity of dryland environments so limited that outmigration should be encouraged as part of a comprehensive strategy to enhance resilience?
  • And given the range of policy options, where should investments be focused, considering that there are many competing priorities?

Why a regional report?

Adopting a regional approach to address these issues makes sense for four main reasons. First, many of the interventions needed to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience have important sub-regional or regional dimensions. Second, in the presence of common challenges, there are economies of scale in developing methodologies to evaluate current patterns of vulnerability and their future evolution. Third, recent advances in remote sensing, agro-ecological systems modeling, and spatial analysis offer possibilities for looking at the questions from a regional perspective, at reasonable cost, and with the opportunity to add new insights to the body of site- or country-specific knowledge that already exists. Fourth, a regional report can facilitate the sharing of knowledge across countries and sub-regions on successful or promising technologies or policy options.


The overarching goal of the proposed report is to improve our understanding of the unique development challenges posed by dryland regions, today and in the future, and to help identify effective interventions that can reduce the vulnerability of populations living in dryland regions and strengthen their resilience. The specific objectives of the report include the following:

  1. Characterize the main current and future challenges involved in reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience of households living in dryland regions of Africa;
  2. Develop a framework of analysis that can assess the relative effectiveness of policies to enhance resilience, thereby informing the next generation of relevant investments;
  3. Estimate the likely cost of the investments needed to reduce vulnerability to desirable levels (while ensuring that interventions are socially and environmentally sustainable);
  4. Promote sharing of regional and global knowledge about which interventions work and which do not.

Geographic scope and time horizon

The report will examine dryland areas throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, with particular attention devoted to the hotspots of vulnerability of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Sub-humid and humid areas will be considered as well, to the extent that these represent important markets for products produced or consumed in dryland areas.

The analysis will consider interventions that can be expected to deliver benefits in the short- to medium term (through 2020), as well as interventions with longer gestation periods whose payoffs would be realized over a longer time frame (through 2030). Completion of the report is expected summer 2014 and the launch by the winter.

Provisional structure of the report

Enhancing resilience in African drylands: Toward a shared development agenda

  1. Dryland regions: Central to Africa’s development challenge
  2. The human, social, and political context of drylands development
  3. Climate shocks and other vulnerabilities: Today and tomorrow
  4. Livestock production systems: Seizing the opportunities
  5. Agriculture: More water and better farming for improved food security
  6. Tree-based systems: Boosting resilience through multiple pathways
  7. Healthy ecosystems: Integrated approaches for well-balanced landscapes
  8. Market connections: Using trade to improve resilience
  9. Social protection: Safety nets for those in need
  10. The road ahead: Toward a shared drylands development agenda

Partnership and implementation arrangements

The work will be carried out in consultation and partnership with African institutions (at the national, sub-regional and regional level). An earlier version of this Concept Note was endorsed in November 2012 by the Executive Committee of TerrAfrica, an AU/NEPAD program that supports initiatives on sustainable land management. TerrAfrica is also contributing resources to fund some of the background studies.

Further consultations with regional/ sub-regional organizations such as CILSS and IGAD are being planned for the Spring of 2013 to seek feedback on the proposed scope and approach and identify modalities of collaboration for the next stages of analysis and report preparation.

The analytical work will be undertaken in collaboration with a group of technical partners (including TerrAfrica, FAO, IFPRI, ILRI, ICARDA, CIRAD/SIPSSA). The World Bank will play a role of coordination and harmonization of the different contributions, but all partners will have ownership and visibility in the final product. A technical steering group is being formed, with each partner nominating a focal point responsible for the quality and timely delivery of the contribution of his/her organization.

African Drylands Seminar Series

The African Drylands Seminar Series is intended to create opportunities to seek feedback on the first set of results of the study and discuss their significance from a policy perspective.

April 1, 2014Erin Gray, Norbert Henninger, Chris Reij, and Robert Winterbottom, World Resources InstituteIntegrated Landscape Management in Dryland Regions of Sub-Saharan Africa
March 26, 2014Carlo del Ninno and Sara Coll-Black (World Bank)Protecting the Vulnerable in the Drylands: The Role of Social Protection *pdf
March 12, 2014Alberto Zezza (World Bank) and Marco D’ Errico (Consultant, FAO)Livelihood, Vulnerability and Resilience in Africa’s Drylands: A Profile Based on the Living Standards Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture *pdf
March 5, 2014Frank Place (ICRAF)The Multiple Contributions of Tree-Based Systems to Drylands’ Resilience *pdf
February 26, 2014Cees de Haan (Consultant) and Siwa Msangi (IFPRI)Toward a More Resilient Livestock Sector in Drylands: Opportunities and Challenges *pdf
February 12, 2014Tom Walker (former ICRISAT and CIP)Sustainable Intensification of Drylands Agriculture *pdf
February 5, 2014Chris Ward (World Bank) and Claudia Ringler (IFPRI)Agriculture Water Management for Enhanced Resilience in Drylands *pdf
January 23, 2014Dennis Garrity (WRI)Why Natural Regeneration and Re-greening are Important? *pdf
January 19, 2014Pasquale Lucio ScandizzoHousehold Resilience and Interaction With Markets: Evidence From Ethiopia Panel Data *pdf

*The opinions and the information presented in these presentations are the sole responsibility of the authors, and in no way reflect the policies of the World Bank.