While well known for rainforests, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are actually about one-fourth desert and drylands (or 20,533,000 km2). The deserts of the Pacific coast stretch from southern Ecuador across the entire Peruvian shoreline to northern Chile. Further inland, at altitudes of 3,000-4,500 meters, the high plains, or Altiplano, of the Andean mountains cover large areas of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. To the east of the Andes, an arid region extends from Chaco‘s northern reaches in Paraguay to Patagonia in southern Argentina. In northeastern Brazil, the landscape is dominated by semi-arid zones and tropical savannahs. The region faces many challenges from land degradation. Large parts of Colombia and Venezuela are highly degraded. In the arid zones of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, erosion and water shortages are noticeably intensifying. Most of Mexico is arid and semi-arid, mainly in the north. Severe droughts and land degradation have made the countries in Central America extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, delaying their sustainable development.
Poverty and pressure on natural resources are critical factors driving land degradation in much of Latin America and the Caribbean. In a region with 465 million inhabitants, around 110 million live below the poverty line.
Latin America and the Caribbean: Regional cooperation
The Regional Annex for Latin America and the Caribbean strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable development. The convention has strong political support in the region. Every country is a party to it, and the issues of land degradation, desertification and drought are in an ongoing process of being integrated into the national agendas for sustainable development and poverty reduction.
National Action Programmes (NAPs) have been formulated by most countries, taking a bottom-up approach with involvement from all relevant stakeholders, including civil society. Presently, many NAPs are in the process of being aligned to the 10-year strategy of the UNCCD.
Several Sub-regional Programmes (SRAPs) have also been launched and further implemented. These include the sub-regional programmes for Gran Chaco Americano (Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay), Puna Americana, (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru), Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Colombia and Venezuela.
The Regional Action Programme (RAP) of March 1998 was assessed, reviewed and updated in 2003 for enhanced coordination of national efforts and synergies. The RAP includes six crosscutting thematic programme networks (TPNs) addressing benchmarks and indicators, information (DESELAC), integrated water management, agroforestry, traditional knowledge and renewable sustainable energy. A regional coordination unit (RCU) is hosted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago de Chile.