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Taste the drylands. Drylands natural products, trade, value of dryland exports and more

Drylands cover 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface and are home to more than 2 billion people. Despite climatic and environmental limitations, cultivable drylands play a critical role in ensuring food and nutrition security for these people, and for the rest of the world. One-third of all the crucial crops we see in our markets and on our tables originated in drylands. Here, we put the spotlight on some of the crops that center stage authentic recipes from across the drylands.


Sorghum is the world‘s fifth major crop after rice, wheat, maize and barley. It constitutes the main food grain for over 750 million people living in the semi-arid tropics of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Sorghum is a very versatile crop: it is used in lieu of rice or to make porridge, breads, lactic and alcoholic beers and beverages, and weaning foods.


Freekeh or farik (Arabic for “to rub“) is a common cereal food in many Middle Eastern and North African countries. The process of making freekeh has not changed since ancient times: durum wheat is harvested when the grains are still young and green; the grains are traditionally sun-dried and lightly roasted on fire; then the grains are rubbed to reveal the subtly smoky, nutty freekeh. Freekeh has more protein, vitamins and minerals than normal wheat, and four times the amount of fiber in rice. It is a particularly rich source of calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.


Millet is a cereal grain regularly consumed by millions of people inhabiting the arid and semi-arid tropics of the world. Different varieties of the grain exist, including pearl millet, finger millet and kodo millet. Millet grains are nutrient dense, where they are a good source of essential amino acids and micronutrients. The plant produces good yields under low input crop production systems and can survive on soils of low fertility.


Lentil is one of the world’s oldest cultivated plants, which originated in the Middle East. Due to its high protein and micronutrient content, low cost, and fast-cooking characteristics, this pulse crop is predominantly grown and consumed in South Asia, West Asia, North Africa and East Africa. Lentil is not only beneficial for human health, but also provides benefits to soil: as with other legumes, the lentil plant is able to fix nitrogen in soil, restoring its fertility. North African countries are among the world’s major lentil producers.

Fava beans

Fava beans, also known as broad beans, originated in the Mediterranean area. As opposed to chickpea and lentil, fava beans have less drought tolerance, but are grown in dry parts of the world often under irrigation. Like other pulses, they are an important source of protein and vital micronutrients that are essential for maintaining good health and optimal body functionality.


Chickpea is the world’s second-largest smallholder-cultivated food legume. Developing countries account for over 95% of its production and consumption. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein, with a wide range of essential amino acids. Chickpea is also a good source of iron, manganese and zinc. Researchers from the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and partners are helping transform what was once a subsistence crop into an internationally traded commodity.


Figs are native of the Middle East and Western Asia. In dry areas, fig plants play multiple and essential roles like providing soil cover, wind protection, a source of fuel wood, fodder and food. The production and consumption of the fruit in arid zones provides a dietary supplement as well as commercial opportunity. Figs have a higher copper and iron content than most other fruits. Algeria, Turkey and Turkistan are among the major producers of figs today.


Apricot is a versatile fruit, which can be consumed fresh, canned, dried or conserved. It is rich in micronutrients, especially vitamins A and C. Apricot production represents an important income-generating opportunity for farmers particularly in Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Algeria, Pakistan, Morocco and Egypt.


Native to the Middle East, pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees. Flourishing in hot climates, pistachios spread from the Middle East to the Mediterranean. Iran, Syria and Turkey are among the major producers. Pistachio nut has a high nutritional value; it provides protein, healthy fats and minerals, and has a long storage life.

All recipes you can read following the link  to CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.

Drylands produce forage for domestic livestock, which inturn support human livelihoods with meat, dairy products,and clothing materials such as wool and leather. Drylandsare used extensively for the production of food. Many ofour major food crops, such as wheat, barley, sorghum, andmillet originated in drylands. Today wild varieties fromthese centers of origin serve as sources of genetic plantmaterial for developing drought-resistant crop varieties.

Further reading on dryland natural products, export potential,drylands farming and more: