With approximately 3,340,069 ha covered by arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid land, 69.7% of land in the Dominican Republic is, by definition, at risk of desertification . Based on evaluations conducted as part of the country’s participation in the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality Target setting process , the national baseline of degraded lands was estimated.
As indicated by deforestation level (between 2000 and 2010) and the reduction of soil carbon stocks and net primary productivity, some 496,000 ha (about 11% of the country’s territory) were critically affected by land degradation processes in 2010. Twenty-four of the country’s 89 sub-watersheds are affected by land degradation; those most critically affected are the Joca river watershed and La Isabela coastal watershed.
Several types of land degradation occur in those areas, including soil erosion, salinization, soil compaction, waterlogging, and soil pollution, particularly affecting highlands and agricultural land .
About 21% (1,032,057 ha) of the country’s territory show high or very high levels of hydric soil erosion, losing over 25 tn of soil per ha annually . High erosion levels occur in the southern slopes of the Cordillera Central (particularly the upper Yaque del Sur watershed), the Sierra de Neiba, the Ozama river watershed, and the southern slope of the Cordillera Oriental, affecting a total of 22 municipalities. Data available are insufficient to evaluate the extent and location of the other degradation processes identified.
Desertification in the Dominican Republic is driven by both human and natural causes. Natural causes include extreme weather events such as droughts and high evaporation spells, which contribute to the expansion of arid areas. Human causes include deforestation and the expansion of agricultural land followed by unsustainable farming practices; poor irrigation schemes; overuse of agrochemicals; and overgrazing , , .
Soil salinization occurs in flat areas mainly in the Enriquillo (Bahoruco, Neyba Valley and Independencia), Northwest (Monte Cristi and lower Yaque del Norte), and the Valdesia (Azua plain) regions. Salinization is caused by inadequate irrigation and drainage practices in areas with a shallow water table.
Soil erosion and fertility loss due to deforestation occur in the upper parts of watersheds, mainly in the Enriquillo, Noroeste, El Valle, and Valdesia regions.
Soil erosion in gentle slopes of the middle part of watersheds is often due to the lack of soil conservation practices in agricultural and pasturelands located on highly erodible soil types.
Soil degradation by pollution is caused by multiple factors, including solid waste dumping sites, wildfires, overuse of agrochemicals, and mining activities.
Underlying drivers of soil degradation include population growth (and the need to occupy wider areas); poverty and social exclusion that push poor farmers to occupy vulnerable or environmentally fragile land; production patterns oriented towards satisfying the consumers’ increasing demands; and natural hazards.
Key policies and governance approach
The Dominican Republic is party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification since 1997.
In compliance to its obligations to the convention, the Dominican Republic produced its first National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and the Effects of Drought in 2012 . The National Plan aimed at controlling and preventing the main causes of desertification and degradation of natural resources in the drylands of the country and identified a set of practical short-, medium-, and long-term measures that should be applied to address land degradation.
The Dominican Republic submitted its Land Degradation Neutrality Target pledge to the UNCCD in 2017, including an estimate and definition of the voluntary target, as well as practical measures to reduce land degradation and attain land degradation neutrality by 2030. Measures included reforestation, soil conservation programmes, sustainable forest management, control and prevention of forest fires, and others . The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources began the implementation of the Land Degradation Neutrality Programme in 2016.
An updated, more ambitious version of the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and the Effects of Drought was completed in 2018 and adopted in 2020.
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
Sufficient information is not yet available, too soon to assess (as of November 2021).
Initiatives and Development Plans
Major on-going initiatives on this issue include the implementation of the National Action Plan and the Land Degradation Neutrality Programme, in addition to the long-term Quisqueya Verde Programme.
Goals and Ambitions
The Dominican Republic’s Land Degradation Neutrality Target pledge  is to attain Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030, that is, containing or reducing land degradation in the country to the estimated extent in the baseline year (2010) — 496,000 ha or approximately 10% of the country territory — by means of the restoration of lands undergoing degradation and preventing the degradation of currently well-preserved land.
The National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and the Effects of Drought 2018-2030  aims to minimize land degradation across the country’s territory and mitigate the adverse effects of droughts in order to contribute to attaining sustainable development and improve the life conditions of the population. The Plan encompasses two sub-plans, one aimed at combating land degradation and the second one focused on managing the effects of drought.
- Regularly updated, comprehensive data on the evolution of land degradation in the Dominican Republic are not available. This deficiency makes identifying hot-spots and direct corrective actions difficult and uncertain.
- The financial needs for implementing the actions envisioned in the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and the Effects of Drought 2018-2030 in order to minimize land degradation and mitigate the adverse effects of droughts have been estimated at US$ 1,001.8 million (US$ 460.6 million for land degradation, plus US$ 541.2 million for drought management). The country is admittedly unable to afford such investments and will require support from the international community.
 Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales. 2018. Análisis de las Causas Directas e Indirectas (Drivers) de Deforestación y Degradación de los Bosques (DD) en República Dominicana y Propuestas de Alternativas de Uso Sostenible del Suelo que Disminuyen la DD y Aumentan los Reservorios de Carbono del Proyecto Preparación para REDD+. Banco Mundial/ Fondo Cooperativo para el Carbono de los Bosques.