Drought -- National Drought Mitigation Center


Date of this Version



Published in Natural Resources Forum 26:4 (2002), pp. 275–285.


Copyright © 2002 United Nations. Published by Blackwell Publishers (Wiley-Blackwell). Used by permission.


Drought is a complex, slow-onset phenomenon that affects more people than any other natural haz-ard and results in serious economic, social, and environmental impacts. Although drought affects virtually all climatic regimes and has significant consequences in both developed and developing countries, its impacts are especially serious in developing countries where dryland agriculture pre-dominates. The impacts of drought are often an indicator of unsustainable land and water manage-ment practices, and drought assistance or relief provided by governments and donors encourages land managers and others to continue these practices. This often results in a greater dependence on government and a decline in self-reliance. Moving from crisis to risk management will require the adoption of a new paradigm for land managers, governments, international and regional develop-ment organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. This approach emphasizes preparedness, mitigation, and improved early warning systems (EWS) over emergency response and assistance measures. Article 10 of the Convention to Combat Desertification states that national action pro-grams should be established to identify the factors contributing to desertification and practical measures necessary to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. In the past 10 years, there has been considerable recognition by governments of the need to develop drought prepared-ness plans and policies to reduce the impacts of drought. Unfortunately, progress in drought pre-paredness during the last decade has been slow because most nations lack the institutional capacity and human and financial resources necessary to develop comprehensive drought plans and policies. Recent commitments by governments and international organizations and new drought monitoring technologies and planning and mitigation methodologies are cause for optimism. The challenge is the implementation of these new technologies and methodologies. It is critical for governments that possess this experience to share it with others through regional and global networks. One way to accomplish this goal is to create a network of regional networks on drought preparedness to expedite the adoption of drought preparedness tools to lessen the hardships associated with severe and ex-tended drought episodes.