UNESCO Chair on Eremology

How it started

The International Centre for Eremology – ICE – was founded in 1989 by Prof. Em. Dr. ir. M.F. De Boodt, as a reaction to the disastrous droughts Sahelian countries were suffering from since the early 1970’s. As such, a special branch of science was devoted to the study and management of drylands. It was the late French Professor Theodore Monod (founder in 1938 of IFAN, l’Institut Français d’Afrique Noire, Dakar, Sénégal) who first used the word “eremology” (from the greek erhmoz: desert). It refers, in a narrow sense, to the study of deserts and desertification, which is land degradation in susceptible drylands resulting from climate variations and human activities.

The International Centre for Eremo­logy is situated at Ghent University, Belgium, and offers a research base for scientists and students. From the base, various research, educational and exchange projects are organized around the world.

In recognition of our work, the UNESCO Chair on Eremology was launched in 2008.


The specific objectives of the UNESCO Chair on Eremology are:

-     to promote and coordinate the study and management of drylands,

-     to provide technological and scientific innovation to improve management of drylands,

-     to generate, acquire and disseminate information related to the study and management of drylands,

-     to support and build up capacity of universities, institutes, research centers, ... active in the field of desertification and dryland management.

What we do

As the Chair is embedded in the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, we not only study land degradation, but also seek to sustainably manage land. With our partners in the North and South, we develop site-specific evident-based sustainable land management and climate-smart solutions in order to contribute to food and water security, produce more crop per drop, while combating land degradation, delivering ecosystem services and conserving, restoring or improving our natural capital in which soil and water play a major role. 

What we offer


The Chair is actively involved in the organization of the Erasmus Mundus+ International MSc Program on Soils and Global Change, coordinated by UGent and with Aarhus University (Denmark), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences BOKU (Austria) and Göttingen University (Germany). 

We also contribute to other BSc and MSc programs, including the interuniversity MSc in Sustainable Land Management, the BSc and MSc in Bioscience Engineering, the MSc in Environmental Science and Technology, the EM+ MSc in Environmental Technology.

We co-organize on-site workshops related to eremology in its broad sense.


We offer short-term hands-on tailor-made training related to eremology to scholars with different backgrounds. The chair does not offer financial support for this.

We offer mini-sabbaticals (~one month) to scholars active in the field of eremology. The purpose of the sabbatical is to write a scientific paper based on data collected by the scholar within his/her research, and to give a presentation to a broader audience showing how his/her work contributes to the society at large. Scholars can receive a grant of 1500 EUR (via the family De Boodt-Maselis fund). A short motivation letter should be send to Prof. Wim Cornelis. Only one grant is awarded per year.

We are actively involved in a variety of projects related to eremology in a broad sense, and we are open for new cooperation and collaboration. We also welcome any other cooperation related to the study and management of drylands and to combat desertification.


Apart form a fully equipped soil physics and soil chemistry lab, the International Centre for Eremology has a 25-m long windtunnel with rainfall simulation facility. We further have two large lab rainfall simulators and a 10-m long field rainfall simulator.


For more information, please contact

Prof. dr. Donald Gabriels or Prof. dr. Wim Cornelis

UNESCO Chair on Eremology
Ghent University
Coupure links 653
B-9000 Ghent, Belgium


+32 9 264 60 40


  • Institut des Régions Arides (IRA), Médine, Tunisia
  • Centro del Agua para Zonas Áridas y Semiáridas de América Latina y El Caribe, La Serena, Chile (CAZALAC)
  • Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)
  • Ankara University, Faculty of Agronomy, Turkey
  • Universidad Central de Venezuela, Facultad de Agronomia, Venezuela
  • National Soil Erosion Lab, NRCS-USDA, Purdue University, USA 
  • Joint Lab on Global Change and Food Security with the Institute of Agriculture Resources and Regional Planning (IARRP) (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences)
  • Soil and Water Research Institute (SWRI), Iran