Subsistence farmers living on drylands are the poorest people on Earth, with the lowest incomes, highest child mortality, and highest birth rates. 250 million people live in Africa's drylands. While many families try to farm staple food crops, the low, erratic rainfall and degraded, eroded soils present near-insurmountable challenges to building a prosperous life through traditional agriculture.
To supplement meager incomes, many farmers desperately resort to cutting down indigenous trees to sell as charcoal for urban markets. Rampant deforestation makes farmland less productive, with dryland ecosystems especially susceptible to degradation, desertification and environmental collapse. This cycle forms a vicious poverty trap -- a farmer's primary productive asset is their land, and deforestation is making it worse. Business-as-usual outcomes don't look good.