Environmental degradation in arid and semi-arid regions often results from trade-offs between immediate and long-term needs. Ecological (and ultimately economic) benefits of restrained, sustainable resource use are well-understood by scientists, and are usually apparent to local farmers and herders as well. However, immediate economic needs often conflict, and excessive exploitation of resources may be necessary to subsistence producers’ survival. Such issues are illustrated in a variety of settings. Solutions to problems containing important economic components require appropriate economic policies, as well as technical action. Long-term sustainable resource utilisation rather than short-term exploitation must be made more attractive to local producers in their daily lives.