This Atlas is the first in a series produced by the Animal Health and Production Division (AGA) of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and is derived from a succession of studies commissioned between 1996 and 2000.
The Atlas' major objectives are to provide improved maps which will show how livestock, crops, people and the environment are all interconnected, and how these different elements can be related to each other and used to simplify our view of the various different types of agricultural practices that exist in the developing world. A picture is worth a thousand words!!
We have not only provided maps of the various livestock species, but also a wide range of more detailed data in the form of maps and graphs which are intended to show how livestock productivity (how efficiently they are managed) varies in different countries and in different years. We have also tried to show how these data have been produced, and how more detail can be extracted from the country level information that is available on the web or in censuses.
This is a continuing area of study, and has so far dealt with only two of the five continents - Asia and Africa. We hope to extend the principles used to other areas of the World in the near future. We hope the Atlas will also encourage site visitors who know about particular areas to point out where there are errors or we have misinterpreted our results, and will eventually stimulate the formation of a regular data exchange network. Any feedback will be gratefully received.
The main Sections are briefly described below, each with an overview page for those who are less concerned with details and justifications and which can be reached by the links at the bottom of this page or the summary headings. The major topics covered are also listed in the left hand frame of the screen, which will always be visible to help you navigate your way around this site. There is also a glossary which defines the more technical terms (accessed via the green links in the text).
If you want a permanent copy of the maps, you can always download the images, by right clicking when the cursor is placed over an picture, and selecting Save. In due course, we will provide links to print quality maps where available. You can also obtain this Atlas on CD from FAO; you can download this entire site and install it on your own computer; or you can download a Word 2000 document which summarises some of the main points we try to make. Be aware that these files are large (5-10MB) and will take a long time to download. You can also download and install any updates and additions we make to the site.
Livestock and cropping are the primary components of agriculture which we need know about in order to be able to categorise agricultural systems and to promote production in ways that are most appropriate to the type of farming practiced in a particular place. Perhaps the most important knowledge we need to have is maps of where the animals and cultivation are, how efficiently they are managed, and what changes have happened over the years.
Farming is closely linked to climate and the environment. Though there are a multitude of weather stations around the globe, even in the remotest of areas, they can only tell us about the conditions at the specific location of the instruments. Satellites, on the other hand, can give us a good idea of the weather over the whole planet, and can also tell us about a wide range of land characteristics.
Without people there would be no agriculture. We need to know where the people are, and how many of them there are, in order to be able to estimate the demand for agricultural produce, as well as how many are actually doing the producing.
There are many diseases which affect livestock and crops. FAO and its consultants have been looking at ways to map animal diseases, as well as agents that carry diseases, that rely less on direct measurement than do conventional methods.
If we can map animals, crops, people, and the environment in ways that are easily compatible with each other, and without too many gaps, then we can look at the ways in which each of these components are associated with each other. This allows us to define 'systems' - which represent areas of agricultural or ecological similarity where we might expect to find similar types of production and where similar types of improvement or development might be appropriate. If we know that something works in one part of such a system, then we should be able to apply the same solutions in another part of it.
We may also be able to group these systems according to their levels of exploitation and environmental vulnerability, and so help to identify the areas most in need of help.
Because much of the information we need is not available for everywhere, we have had to work out ways of 'filling in the gaps'. As a result, some of the methods we have used to generate the maps presented here rely heavily on statistics and satellite imagery to predict levels of, for example, cattle and cropping. A major reason for this Atlas is to try to demysitify these techniques, and they are explained in some depth in this section. We hope this will allow them to be used more widely.
We are continually producing new results for you to see. This section provides summaries and examples of the work we have recently completed and for which reports are available, but which are not on the Official FAO CD. We hope to eventually integrate these fully into the main body of the Atlas, and a new Version of the CD.
We also have some work in progress, which is not yet completed, but for which we have some initial results we hope will interest you.
We have provided a range of additional information for those who want to find out more about our work - links; who we are (with photographs!); summaries of the reports from which much of the Atlas is derived; and how you can get involved.
We are indebted to the large number of people who have advised, helped and guided the Atlas production team, and who have contributed to the work from which the Atlas is drawn.