Development Strategies for Fragile Lands

Development Strategies for Fragile Lands (DESFIL), is a centrally funded project of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The project provides analysis and technical assistance to AID missions and bureaus, host countries, and private voluntary organizations. Its goal is to help countries and regions develop strategies to improve fragile lands management.

DESFIL's first phase (1987-1991), which focused on Latin America, demonstrated the importance of participation by local people in the design and implementation of programs to improve resource management. The second phase (1991-96) aims to consolidate those lessons and apply them to the problems of fragile lands management worldwide, adding arid and semi-arid zones to the categories of steep slopes and humid tropical lowlands that were the focus of the first phase.

The DESFIL strategy is to understand the interaction between resource users (individuals, groups, firms, governments) and fragile lands and then to fully incorporate resource users into efforts to improve fragile lands management.

DESFIL Priority Areas

Indigenous people: Local populations have developed natural resource management systems that they have sustained over long periods of time. Population growth and other factors are increasingly undermining these systems. DESFIL emphasizes the role of indigenous peoples as local ecological experts, examining their contributions as resource users and their responses to contemporary pressures.

Natural forests: Tropical forests are vital for their rich biodiversity, their environmental role, and their potential as sources of income. Current rates of deforestation are rapidly destroying those resources. DESFIL aims to decelerate the conversion of forests to other uses and to reforest degraded lands by promoting appropriate management systems and developing better ways to shape the behavior of resource users.

Sustainable agriculture: Resource depletion (soil erosion, fertility loss, and overuse of agrichemicals) is accelerating throughout the world as a result of common agricultural practices. DESFIL develops appropriate combinations of policies, technologies, and incentives to encourage the adoption of farming methods that lead to long-term productivity.

Gender issues: The division of environmental knowledge and responsibilities by gender is an important consideration in the development of strategies to manage fragile lands. The DESFIL Project stresses an understanding of household gender roles as essential to agroforestry research, as well as to institution building, policymaking, and technology adaptation.

For more information or a subscription to the project newsletter contact:

Ann Hamilton-DESFIL
2000 M Street, N.W., Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036 USA
Fax: (202) 331-1871
Phone: (202) 331-1860