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In 1975 the Council of the United Nations University identified three priority areas for its concern-world hunger, human and social development, and the use and management of natural resources - and directed that a programme should be organized in each of these areas. Each of these programmes is closely related to the others. For example, better use and management of natural resources would help to solve the problem of world hunger and so release more resources and human energy for human and social development.

By early 1977 the Programme on the Use and Management of Natural Resources had itself identified a series of specific problem areas for its investigation - viz. environmental deterioration in the humid tropics, rural energy supplies, and the ineffectiveness of attempts to apply knowledge to the management and development of arid lands-and sub-programmes were developed in response to each of these.

In October 1977 it was decided to base the Arid Lands Subs programme (the Sub-programme on the Assessment of the Application of Knowledge to Arid Lands Problems) in Africa-at the University of Khartoum, in Sudan. In October 1978 a workshop took place in Khartoum as a result of which a first series of five studies was initiated in Sudan during 1979 under the overall heading "Obstacles to the Application of Existing Knowledge in Arid Lands". By 1982 the four studies reported on here had been completed.

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