5. Outline of a revised framework for land evaluation 39 Preface 39
Chapter 1 – The need for revision 39
Chapter 2 – Historical development of land evaluation 39
Chapter 3 – Expansion of concepts and definitions 39
Chapter 4 – Land suitability classifications 39
Chapter 5 – Land evaluation procedures 39
References 41 Annexes 61 1.
Data for land evaluation 69
Tools for land evaluation 75
Case studies 101
v List of figures 1. Schematic representation of activities in a newly proposed outline
of land evaluation procedures 33
vi Acknowledgements This report is the result of a long effort of the FAO Land and Water Division, initiated by
Wim Sombroek and Parviz Koohafkan, to update the Framework for Land Evaluation.
Several drafts of the report were prepared by Ms Anne Gobin and Ms Nathalie Cools,
and reviewed by Anthony Young, Jules Pretty, Robert Brinkman, Rudi Dudal and
Philippe Mahler, the latter providing the final text. Compiling this report was under the
guidance of F. Nachtergaele of the FAO Land Tenure and Management Unit (NRLA).
The editing report benefited from Ms. L. Chalk who assisted in its final preparation.
vii Preface The 70s saw the emergence of worldwide concerns for the capacity of the planet to
feed its growing population while ensuring the conservation of its natural resources
and the protection of the environment. As a global inventory of soil resources was
being conducted under the auspices of FAO and UNESCO, an internationally accepted
methodology was elaborated concurrently to assess the potentialities as well as the limits
of the world’s land resources for development. The Land Evaluation Framework, which
was issued by FAO in 1976, was not confined to the evaluation of land potentials for
agriculture: alternative land uses such as forestry and nature conservation were also
considered and the protection of the environment was included among the criteria used
in the determination of the land suitability for a given use.
The need for a revision of the Land Evaluation Framework was not felt necessary
for almost 30 years. The guidelines of the Framework were further developed in diverse
publications for specific kinds of land uses such as irrigated agriculture, forestry, rain
fed farming and applied in many countries without calling for significant changes in the
What changed during the last decades, however, was the scope and purpose of the
land evaluations. Initially land evaluations were carried out mostly for land use planning
and land development projects. In general, the purpose was to introduce major land
use changes, both more profitable and better adapted to the land conditions, often
involving investment and technical assistance from governments and other sources.
Nowadays, the focus of land evaluation is mainly placed on solving technical as well
as socio-economic and environmental problems in the use of lands which have been
developed, are fully utilized already and often are overexploited and degraded. Land
evaluations nowadays help solving conflicting demands on limited land resources. The
solutions of these problems do not necessarily call for drastic changes in the existing
kind of land use but more often for adjustments in the land management conditions
and management practices and for land improvement or protection works. The solution
of land use conflicts also call for more participation, mediation and arbitration efforts
among the diverse parties concerned with land use.
As the purpose and scope of land evaluations shifted to a wider range of concerns, it is
now felt necessary to include additional concepts, definitions, principles and procedures
in the Framework so as to address them more systematically. In particular, the new
concerns about the sustainability of land use should be addressed and their implications
fully examined. The requirements for the protection of the environment, the economic
viability of the land use over a longer term and the social acceptability of land use
conditions necessitate more complex studies of the land resources, of the land uses, of
their interactions and of their environment. Above all, they call for the involvement, not
only of more specialists and of all the land users, actual or potential, but also of all the
other stakeholders in the land use, and this in the whole process of land evaluation.
A revision of the 1976 Land Evaluation Framework thus becomes “a tall order”
requiring wide consultations and thorough discussions. The present document attempts
to cover all what this revision might entail and encompass, including new advances made
in several areas. At this stage, its aim is that of a discussion paper to raise awareness
and interest in a number of aspects which are relevant to the subject. Wide-ranging
discussions should decide what should be ultimately retained in a revised general
framework and what could possibly be left to other activities, upstream or downstream
viii of land evaluation or conducted in parallel or even elaborated in land evaluation
guidelines for specific purposes.