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Washington, D.C., World Bank, 1987. xi, 62 p. (World Bank Technical Paper No. 61)The problem of desertification in the Sahelian and Sudanian Zones (SSZ) of West Africa is addressed. Desertification is defined as the process of sustained decline in biological productivity of arid and semiarid land. Desertification is complex and poorly understood and is caused by the interaction between drought and human abuse. Better management is a viable long term solution. In the SSZ, there is variable rainfall and low fertility soil, and resources are overexploited by humans. The focus of discussion is on defining the nature of the problems and the geographic features of the SSZ; the problem is complex and multifaceted and includes population pressure. The nature of and pressures on traditional production systems (agrosylvicultural, agrosylvipastoral, and sylvopastoral) are described as well as the carrying capacities of traditional production systems. Past development activities and common weaknesses of development activities are reviewed with reference to the agricultural, livestock, and forestry sectors. The elements of a strategy for better resources management are delineated. Some general observations are made. Actions are defined with reference to pressure on 1) carrying capacity (CC) in areas where the ratio of population (RP) does not exceed CC, where RP slightly exceeds OC, and where RP greatly exceeds CC; the issue of irrigation increasing carrying capacity is dealt with. Other elements are 2) upgrading competence in research and training, 3) reducing demand (population and wood), and 4) the policy environment (land law and incentives). Implications for actions are indicated for the members of the Comite Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Secheresse dans le Sahel, governments, financiers in general, and for the World Bank group in particular. A statistical appendix is provided with information on land distribution, soil suitability, population and distribution by a number of factors, and carrying capacity. Elementary erosion techniques and research orientations also are provided.