Drylands Workshop 10–11 March 2011




Cull, T.
Vincent, K.


Drylands Workshop 10–11 March 2011




Government Office for Science UK


Foresight is a UK government programme based in the Government Office for Science. Its main responsibility is to ensure that governments (especially, but not limited to, the UK government) have access to, and use, the best scientific advice and evidence in order to think systematically about the future and develop robust policies for the 21st century. The purpose of the Foresight Migration and Global Environmental Change (MGEC) project is to look at the relationship between migration and global systemic changes in the environment until the year 2060. The following report provides a summary of the fourth, and final, MGEC workshop, held in Johannesburg, South Africa in mid‐March 2011, which focused on dryland ecosystems.
The first section of the report offers an outline of the Foresight Programme and background to the workshop. The Foresight MGEC project is an opportunity to provide an understanding of both the causal linkages in the environmental migration system as well as an analysis of possible policy implications and responses. Until now virtually all studies of the effect of environmental change on migration have started with environmental change, i.e. ‘What environmental changes are possible and what would be the consequences for migration?’ In contrast, the Foresight MGEC project turns this perspective on its head and starts with migration, i.e. ‘What are the drivers and influences on migration, and how might these be affected by environmental change?’
In order to achieve the above, Foresight commissioned reviews and organised stakeholder workshops in four key ecosystems, where the interplay of environmental and non‐environmental drivers is likely to be of particular interest to policy makers. These were:
– low‐elevation coastal zones and small island states (e.g. Bangladesh)
– the Mediterranean
– mountainous regions (e.g. the Himalayas)
– drylands (e.g. sub‐Saharan Africa).

Section 2 of the report is a brief overview of dryland ecosystems. Drylands form a substantial biome, both in terms of area (around 40% of the world’s land surface) and the number of people that live in them (approximately 2 billion people). Omitting a few tiny island states, there are 97 countries containing some area of dryland worldwide and, with the exception of the equatorial tropical forest belt, all of Africa is classified as dryland. Drylands are typically variable, both over space and over time, are characterised by low productivity, usually have low populations compared with surrounding areas, and are relatively remote and distant from centres of power. Most rural livelihoods in drylands are still dominated by the use of natural resources resulting in marginalisation and high levels of inequality.
The third section of the report concentrates on the drivers of migration. Important is the recognition that there are numerous, interlinked, drivers of migration which can be categorised into five main groups: demographic, social, economic, political and environmental. Environmental change is unlikely to be the sole driver of migration, except in particular instances, such as the effect of sea level rise on islands. Instead environmental change will affect all five groups of drivers, to varying degrees in different contexts, both directly and indirectly.


Cull, T., & Vincent, K. (2011). Drylands Workshop 10–11 March 2011. Johannesburg – London : Government Office for Science UK.