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The world’s drylands include hyperarid, arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid areas where rainfall is highly variable, droughts are common and water is the principal limiting factor for agriculture. Dryland soils, which are characterized by low levels of moisture, organic matter, and biological activity, often display poor fertility. When inappropriately utilized for agriculture, dryland soils are susceptible to rapid fertility loss, erosion, desertification, and salinization.

Sustainable land management (SLM) practices aim to prevent and mitigate the impacts associated with inappropriate agriculture in drylands by managing agro-ecosystems for sustained productivity, increased profits, and improved food security whilst reversing and preventing water stress, soil erosion and desertification.

This guideline details how conservation agriculture, rain water harvesting, agroforestry (especially with indigenous trees), the use of cross-slope barriers, integrated soil fertility management, integrated crop and livestock management, sustainable forest management, and improved irrigation design can all be employed. When these strategies are effectively implemented, in combination or alone, they can help conserve water, enhance soil fertility, improve crop water-use efficiency, and boost rangeland health, while preventing the unintended negative consequences associated with dryland farming.