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Wim G. Sombroek, Director of FAO's Land and Water Development Division, gave a historical background of the term "desertification," identifying bio-climatic aridity based on evaporation and evapo-transpiration, as well as length of growing periods. He then identified arid, hyper-arid, semi-arid and humid areas, and cited the components of land degradation that encompass the degradation of human settlements and infrastructure. He spoke about a study carried out by FAO, the Global Assessment of Soil Degradation (GLASOD), which was aimed at generating factual information on the severity of land degradation. He described two types of degradation: degraded land that can be rehabilitated through the reduction of resource use, and destruction that is barely recoverable and can only be redeemed through structural changes.

El Hadji M. Sene of the Forest Resource Division addressed rangeland degradation and cited its main causes. He emphasized that rehabilitation of such lands requires sound ecological and integrated management of natural resources, supported by adapted technology, economic planning, legal and financial measures, as well as improved institutions. He also underlined the role of the people's participation in these programmes. He concluded that combatting desertification requires a holistic approach that includes agriculture, efficient use of land and its natural resources, political will, regional and international conventions, appropriate legislation, and proper education.