For nature and livelihoods

Arid Zone Ecology Forum

Bringing partners together through research in the arid zone of southern Africa

Incredible biodiversity

More than half of southern Africa is either in the arid or semi-arid zone. These areas are home to incredible biodiversity. But they also face enormous threats – most of these man-made.

The Arid Zone Ecology Forum (AZEF) is a non-profit organisation that brings partners together to identify these problems and find solutions in the arid and semi-arid regions of southern Africa.  

Our work focuses on three themes:


Partners undertake research in the arid and semi-arid zone of southern Africa, and share their research, to influence agricultural, management and conservation policies and legislation, to find solutions to the threats.

Once a year, all our partners come together to network and share information, in order to improve not only nature, but also livelihoods of the dryland communities in the region. Managers, landowners, researchers, government officials and students are all invited to attend.

AZEF serves as the go-to-hub for information and research on the southern African arid zone. From important news to job opportunities in the region, we work to make it easy for this active community to share information with each other.


AZEF 2024 will be held in Calvinia, in the Northern Cape! There will also be an optional pre-conference workshop for in-person delegates on Monday, 7 October 2024. We’ve once again opted for a hybrid conference, so an online registration option via Zoom will be available. Please note: Due to Calvinia’s intermittent connectivity issues, this will be a limited remote option. There will be no live, online interaction but at a minimum, recordings will be available.

Date: 8-10 October 2024

Place: The Barn, Calvinia , Northern Cape








Succulent Karoo  |  Nama-Karoo  |  Savanna  |  Grassland

Where is the arid zone?

AZEF covers a broad region, including the Succulent Karoo and Nama-Karoo biomes, as well as small areas of the Savanna and Grassland biomes. As a rough guideline, the arid zone is considered to include all areas with a mean annual rainfall of 500mm or less.

These biomes are important in a global context: For example, the Succulent Karoo is an arid biodiversity hotspot.

It is home to the richest succulent flora on Earth. Here you’ll find around 6 350 species of vascular plants, with 40% of these endemic.

  • ENDEMIC 40% 40%
  • Other % stat 23% 23%

Carina Bruwer

South Africa’s endemic succulents are in demand for their beauty, rarity and often whimsical and miniature shapes.

On the brink of extinction

Plant Poaching Crisis

These biomes face huge threats – most of these man-made. The poaching of plants, especially succulents, has already led to the extinction of several species in the wild.

Critically Endangered

More species are now at risk – especially Conophytums, many listed as Critically Endangered.


Climate change and land degradation

We’re starting to see, and understand, the impacts of climate change on the arid zone – with scientists observing mass mortalities of succulents, shrubs and trees. And poor agricultural practices have also led to land degradation.

News and job listings

Explore AZEF

Join our AZEF community

As a member of the AZEF community, you have access to partners such as yourself, working to protect the arid and semi-arid zone of southern Africa.

Get to know other partners working in the arid zone, and how they can help you. MORE

Share or learn more about study and work opportunities in the arid zone. MORE

Join our annual conference to connect with stakeholders in the arid zone. MORE

Join our emailer to stay in touch with the latest opportunities in the arid zone. MORE

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