1 - Climate Variation, Vulnerability and Sustainable Development in the Semi-arid Tropics  pp. 13-52

Climate Variation, Vulnerability and Sustainable Development in the Semi-arid Tropics

By Jesse C. Ribot, Adil Najam and Gabrielle Watson

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INTRODUCTION

This chapter aims to capture the central issues that emerged from the papers, presentations and discussions at the International Conference on the Impacts of Climatic Variations and Sustainable Development in Semi-arid Regions (ICID), held in Fortaleza-Ceará, Brazil from 27 January through 1 February 1992 (see Preface). But, given the breadth and depth of the 76 papers and the wide-ranging discussions during the conference, this chapter could cover only a small subset of the issues that arose. We chose to focus on the plight of socially, politically, economically and spatially marginal populations in semi-arid lands, and the urgent need for environmentally sound and equitable development efforts. These themes recurred throughout the papers, presentations and discussions at the conference.

This chapter draws from the materials and information presented at the conference, as well as the broader literature where relevant. While the themes within this chapter are derived largely from the conference, the arguments are shaped – as could not have been otherwise – by the experiences and perspectives of the authors. We did not try to represent the scope nor the depth of the issues covered at the conference, but rather, to characterize the problems and opportunities, and to explore what we felt were the most pressing concerns within the semi-arid regions of the world.

Climate variability, natural resources and development in semi-arid regions

Vulnerability to dislocation, hunger and famine are the most critical problems facing the inhabitants of semi-arid lands. These regions are subject to extreme variations in their relatively scant seasonal and inter-annual precipitation, resulting in recurrent droughts and floods.