Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home page No. 40, Fall/Winter 1996
The CCD, Part I: Africa and the Mediterranean

Web resources on desertification

Compiled and annotated by Katherine Waser

"The successful implementation of the Convention would make a significant contribution to solving some of our most pressing problems, including food security, water conservation, drought emergency management, poverty reduction, and migration."
--Mr. Hama Arba Diallo Executive Secretary, Interim Secretariat for the CCD speaking at the FAO World Food Summit, November 1996.

[Ed. note: links last checked March 2000]

This list covers World Wide Web resources on:

The list is not intended to be exhaustive; rather, the focus is on sites that house original content and/or data, directory sites with so many good links they simply must be included, and sites that struck me as being particularly in line with the aims and provisions of the CCD.

[Please note also that I have added "Further Web Resources" links to the end of an individual article, in those cases where the link in question seemed more applicable to that particular article than to this overall list.]

Finally, this list represents a "snapshot in time." All contact information is current and working as of 16 December 1996, but beyond that, I cannot guarantee the continuing currency of any of these sites.

I. General Information on Global Desertification

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Desertification, Myth or Reality?
This article from the October, 1994 IDIC Express, written as the CCD was first signed into being, surveys the literature on desertification to provide information on what desertification is and why it's important that we care.

CIESIN: Land Degradation and Desertification
Excellent overview and background information on desertification and land degradation, with lots of links to further information including several pertinent online articles uploaded by CIESIN.

Desertification and Climate Change
[March 2000, server apparently no longer online]
This 1993 fact sheet from UNEP's Information Unit on Climate Change is interesting because of its focus on links between climate change and desertification

Desertification, Drought and Their Consequences (Article)
More background information on desertification as a global problem, from FAO's SD-DIMENSIONS Web pages.

Bright Edges of the World
An electronic exhibit on drylands, sponsored by UNEP and the Smithsonian Institute. With numerous photographs, this attractive, basic introduction to drylands issues around the globe is especially nice for children.

UNEP/GRID Global Data Sets
GRID centres collectively hold thousands of digital maps covering various human and natural environmental themes. The URL above links to GRID's global data sets in all these different categories; the "Climate" and "Soils" categories may be most pertinent to desertification issues, including data sets such as "Global assessment of soil degradation," "Potential evapotranspiration," and "Change in mean annual precipitation."

GIS Applications at NGDC using NOAA Data to improve desertification monitoring (article)
This is a technical overview article about using GIS to improve desertification monitoring. Includes information on how to obtain more detailed information on the same topic.

2. Information on the CCD

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The Convention to Combat Desertification
An indispensable site hosted by the Interim Secretariat for the CCD. This is THE source for information on the CCD, with links to the full text of the Convention, fact sheets about the Convention and its various provisions, information on current ratification status, contact information, press releases, and more.
Note: if this site is busy and you want to access the text of the Convention, you can also read it on the UNDP gopher

The International NGO Network on Desertification and Drought (RIOD)
RIOD is a network that was set up in November 1994 by the NGOs involved in the negotiations towards the CCD. RIOD's view is that through exchange of information, experiences and ideas, NGOs and CBOs (community based organisations) will be more effective in their efforts to contribute to humane and sustainable livelihoods for people living in drylands. This site is an excellent source of information on NGO activities worldwide relating to the CCD.

International Environmental Law and the "Bottom-Up" Approach: A Review of the Desertification Convention (Article)
This detailed article by Kyle Danish "presents an overview of the Convention and analysis based on international environmental legal norms. The author illustrates that, despite donor fatigue and reticence on the part of developed nations, the "bottom-up" approach in conjunction with creative financing methods will provide a more effective means for dealing with a growing environmental crisis."

Linkages/Earth Negotiation Bulletin CCD Information
This section of the Linkages Web site contains all the ENB volumes regarding the various INCD sessions about the CCD. An excellent resource for those who want details on how the CCD process has evolved.

UNEP/GRID Sioux Falls Desertification Web site
This section of the UNEP/GRID web site provides valuable background information on international actions preceding and leading up to the CCD. Links to documents on UNCED conclusions about desertification; information on the DESFIN program (financing anti-desertification programs--evaluating PACD); and 575K bibliography on world desertification. Access the section from the menu in the left-hand frame, by selecting "Special Projects" and then "Desertification."

Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Combating Desertification And Drought (Chapter 12, UNCED)
This is the text of Chapter 12 of the Report Of The United Nations Conference On Environment And Development (Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992), also known as Agenda 21, which states UNCED's conclusions on and suggestions for actions to combat desertification and drought.
(Note: another version of Chapter 12, Agenda 21 is available from the UNDP Web site
but it appears to be an earlier draft than the copy referred to above at the SEDAC/CIESIN site)

Desertification and the UN System (article)
This article, published in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin 4(1) in 1993, provides a good overview of the UN's involvement with desertification-related activities. Very helpful for understanding the historical context of the development of the CCD.

Desertification: the scourge of Africa (article)
This article,written by Michael Bernard Kwesi Darkoh, was published in the April 1993 issue of Tiempo and discusses the complex factors underlying the threat to Africa's drylands. The article is included in this section because it dates from the period between the UNCED call for a desertification convention and the actual establishment of the CCD and discusses some of the reasons why the PACD was judged to be unsuccessful.

3. Desertification in the Mediterranean

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MEDALUS III is an international EU project to address desertification in the Mediterranean areas of Europe. The site describes the four programs of Medalus III (including some historical information), gives contacts information for all involved universities, and has a bibliography of publications from the Medalus I project

Concerted Action On Mediterranean Desertification
[March 2000, site apparently no longer available]
This Concerted Action not only coordinates EU projects on this subject and helps define scientific priorities for future EU projects; it also seeks to apply past and current work in the field to wider issues of Mediterranean environmental management, and will have a watching brief on developments of the CCD.

Desertification Information Network (WCMC)
This is the Web site of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre's pilot project for Desertification in Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. Currently, one of its main functions is to act as a directory site to information of all kinds relating to the topic.

Desertification in the Mediterranean - Bibliography
Desertification in the Mediterranean - Key Texts
These two new, closely linked sites are part of the Loughborough University Global Observatory. Still under development, the bibliography's contents are self-explanatory; the Key Texts page apparently will contain author, title and abstracts of important papers on the subject of Mediterranean desertification. The Loughborough University Global Observatory is an interdisciplinary project designed to provide a service to the world-wide community of social scientists in order to enhance general understanding of global change.

4. Desertification in Africa

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UNSO Office to Combat Desertification & Drought
This site from the UN Sudano-Sahelian Office (UNSO), is under construction but shows good potential for being an excellent information resource. Current site contents include a general information brochure on UNSO in English or Spanish and links to some information notes and partnership building documents concerning the CCD.

IIED Drylands Programme
General information about a program of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) that's aimed at effective management and use of resources in arid and semi-arid parts of Africa. The IIED, an independent, nonprofit organization, has built up a diverse pattern of collaboration with many organizations working in this field and in particular has built links between francophone and anglophone African countries.

Climate Prediction Center - Africa
This site, sponsored by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides maps and text covering several categories of weather and climate data for Africa as a whole.

Africa Data Dissemination Service
This site, covering the African continent, houses extensive EROS-supplied data relating to USAID's Famine Early Warning System program. The data are available by geographic area (e.g. Western Sahel, Horn of Africa, and Southern Africa), by country, and by theme such as vegetation, cropland use or hydrology, etc.

SPAAR Information System (SIS) Database
[March 2000, no longer available online]
The goal of the Special Programme for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR) is to enhance agricultural research in Africa by increasing donor coordination. The SIS searchable database currently contains information on more than 5400 projects. (Note: a query on desertification returned a list of 39 separate projects)

The FAO Web site's Sustainable Development DIMENSIONS (SD-DIMENSIONS) data base is a rich source of information on numerous topics of worldwide interest, and as such, merits some careful exploration. However, for those who don't have time to surf, here's a list of some resources on African desertification housed at the site:
Rainfall Variability and Drought in Subsaharan Africa
La planification des stratégies contre les effets de la sécheresse (focusing on the case of Morocco)
Energy for Sustainable Development and Food Security in Africa
Water Resources Issues in the Arab States Region (including the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa)

Grassroots Indicators for Desertification: Experience and Perspectives from Eastern and Southern Africa (Book)
This book, edited by Helen Hambly and Tobias Onweng Angura and published by Canada's IDRC, grew out of a 1995 workshop hosted by Uganda on "Measuring and Monitoring Desertification in Africa: The Role of Grassroots Indicators." Based on a quick look at the site, it seems that either the entire book, or at least substantial excerpts, have been uploaded.


Club du Sahel
The Club du Sahel is a forum for reflection and consultation, associating the Sahel countries with the principal development assistance agencies involved in the region. The site is available in English or French. (Note: animated gifs currently make this site slow to download; visit it with images off if this is a consideration.)

IRD-Senegal (formerly ORSTOM-Senegal)
The Senegal office of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement en (IRD; formerly known as ORSTOM) conducts projects and disseminates information pertinent to all Sahelian countries. This site is primarily in French.

Project: HAPEX-Sahel
HAPEX-Sahel (Hydrological and Atmospheric Pilot Experiment in the Sahel) is an international land-surface-atmosphere observation program that was undertaken in western Niger, in the west African Sahel region. HAPEX-Sahel was a collaborative, interdisciplinary study with contributed investigations on a wide variety of topics, generally directed at addressing the broad aims of the HAPEX program. An information system (HSIS) has been established on this web site to provide a data base to disseminate the measurements resulting from the program. Everybody can consult the data base catalog, but only official investigators can obtain the actual data. To be identified,investigators have to fill the Registration Form.

The EDEN Foundation
The EDEN Foundation is a Scandinavian NGO working on issues of revegetation in arid lands, particularly in the Sahel. They are advocates of direct seeding and provide extensive information on their projects and their results on this web site.

Tunisian Scientific Consortium
The TSC is an independent, not-for-profit, non-government, apolitical, scientific organization of Tunisians involved in science and technology aiming to contribute to Tunisia's sustainable development; one of their focuses is on combating desertification in Tunisia.

Desertification Watch with Satellites in Northern Africa (Project)
This site, available in French or English, describes a Joint Research Project on "Integration of satellite land surface assessment with socio-economic parameters for global desertification monitoring in the arid Mediterranean Zone (Tunisia and Egypt)." Activities and results to date demonstrate the feasibility of satellite monitoring of desertification. This is a step towards the concept of a "desertification watch" satisfying the needs for information driven by the implementation of the CCD.

Desertification of Agricultural Lands in Egypt by Remote Sensing (Project)
At present, there's not as much information here as one could wish, but the site does include a description of this project, some publication information, and contact information.


Greater Horn of Africa Project
Outgrowth of USAID Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) project. The site houses plentiful EROS satellite maps with data indicators for food security in the Horn of Africa. Maps show cropland use, population, soil suitability for agriculture, vegetation indices etc.

Greater Horn Information Exchange
Yet another rich resource of information on food security issues in the Horn of Africa. Numerous maps (including a nice feature that lets you create a map with only those features you want), access to FEWS Bulletin materials, etc. Free access via gopher, telnet and e-mail too.

Mpala Research Centre, Kenya
The Mpala Research Centre links Kenyan and US institutions to work on advancing understanding of sustainable development for East Africa's savanna and semi-arid woodland habitats.


Desert Research Foundation of Namibia
This site provides basic information on the DRFN, its research activities, and its involvement in CCD-related activities in Namibia.

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