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FAO land evaluation a-a1080e
40 2019 ND-CP 413905
Land suitability evaluation, the methodology set out in the Framework, was conceived 
and applied primarily in terms of sustainable biological production: crops, pastures and 
forestry. However, following the broader definitions of land and land resources, there 

Chapter 1 – The need for revision
is a growing need to address issues related to the capacity of the land to deliver services 
– its multiple functions or benefits; not only to its production potential under specified 
uses. The current Framework for land evaluation therefore needs to be updated to 
reflect these newer concerns, some of which have been the focus of international 
conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification.
Related tools for participatory processes, such as the Guidelines for integrated 
planning for sustainable management of land resources (FAO 1999a), reflect progress 
made in recent years in addressing environmental and socio-economic issues. The 
revised framework should promote the use in land evaluation of current knowledge 
on biodiversity, carbon sequestration, agricultural and environmental modelling, 
agro-ecosystem analysis and stakeholder participation, including gender and land 
tenure issues. The framework should also take into account recent developments in 
assessment and monitoring of agro-environmental sustainability.
Another evolution causing increased pressure upon land resources is the rapid 
population growth in many developing countries. The total population in the least 
developed countries was 361 million in 1976 and 685 million in 2001 (FAOSTAT 2003), 
and is projected to rise to 1.7 billion by 2050 (medium variant, UN 2003), despite a 
projected marked decline in fertility. While in the nineteen-fifties to the seventies, land 
use planning often could still focus on currently little-used land, in the 21
there is generally strong competition between different uses of the land. Global 
population growth and increased demands of diverse stakeholders on land resources 
are posing new challenges to land resources analysis. These include meeting the food 
needs of a world population projected to exceed 7.5 billion by the year 2020; decreasing 
the rate of land degradation and ameliorating degraded land; and protecting the quality 
of land resources to safeguard their use by future generations.
It has been recognized that a number of development projects have failed through 
ignorance of certain socio-economic and cultural issues, such as land tenure, the 
functioning of markets (Dessein 2002) or influence of institutions. Also political factors, 
such as agricultural and environmental policies may have a strong influence on the way 
in which the land is valued and used. It has become clear that top-down agricultural 
modernization schemes generally have not worked, and it is now well understood 
that more participatory methods should be used in agricultural development. It can 
be highly valuable to find out farmers’ own knowledge of their soils, and how these 
respond to management (ethno-pedology).
The minimum decision area and hence, the map scale for a land evaluation should 
depend on the envisaged level of planning and decision-making. Different land 
processes take place at different scales and may influence different levels of decision-
making. Integrated surveys therefore should produce a geo-referenced information 
system with nested levels of detail, relevant to the identified levels of decision-making 
(Gobin et al., 2000).
In summary, there are two trends. First there is recognition of the wider functions 

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