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Land and Water - FAO portal, databases, maps, publications

In a world with 7 billion people to feed amid growing concerns about land and water scarcity, today’s land and water professionals need easy access to up-to-date information, models, approaches and technologies for sustainable food production. 

FAO hosts state-of-the-art databases and software to monitor and manage the many variables required to ensure food security while minimizing environmental impacts. 

All FAO’s standalone software models and other tools can be downloaded free, for use directly in the field or to assist in research projects.

Key databases and software models include:

Legacy Soil Maps and Soils Databases

Legacy maps and databases refer to data and maps compiled using field surveys backed up by remote sensing and other environmental data, expert opinion and laboratory analysis. The bulk of soil information  was collected in this way. The technological advances in remote sensing, computers, terrain analysis, geostatistics, GIS data integration, and instrumentation has made it possible to achieve unprecedented reliability and utility in digital soil maps. There is an increasing amount of digital data available on the Internet or as large datasets on CD-ROM, from straight digital conversions of paper maps and databases to direct-to-digital products. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of digital data that is not easily or freely available.


FAO infographics collection

Forests and Energy

Mar 2017 - Forests are nature’s powerhouse and a vital resource for meeting the world’s renewable-energy demand. 

Pulses and biodiversity

Mar 2017 - Pulses are able to increase biodiversity as they are able to fix their own nitrogen into the soil, which increases soil fertility. It is estimated that there are hundreds of varieties of pulses, including many local varieties that are not exported or grown worldwide.

The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges

Feb 2017 - The report sheds some light on the nature of the challenges that agriculture and food systems are facing now and throughout the 21st century, and provides some insights as to what is at stake and what needs to be done. What emerges is that “business as usual” is no longer ...more

Pulses and Climate Change

Dec 2016 - The changing climate will continue to put pressure on agricultural ecosystems, particularly in regions and for populations that are particularly vulnerable. Introducing pulses into crop production can be key to increasing resilience to climate change.

Food security & climate benefits through nationally appropriate mitigation actions in agriculture

Nov 2016 - The infographic demonstrates that agriculture sectors’ mitigation potential is recognized by 86% countries in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Therefore, climate change mitigation potential of agriculture needs to be unlocked in a timely manner to address the emission gap and keep the temperature increase below 2°C limit. Nationally Appropriate Mitigation ...more

Indigenous Peoples

Nov 2016 - Indigenous Peoples is the internationally agreed term that encompasses different indigenous and tribal communities around the world.

Cash Transfers: Myths vs. Reality

Nov 2016 - Social Protection helps tackle vulnerabilities faced by rural households and plays a fundamental role in improving food and nutrition security and reducing rural poverty. The predictability of social protection instruments enables households to better manage risks and engage in more profitable livelihoods.

The State of Food and Agriculture: Adaptation

Oct 2016 - How we mitigate climate change and adapt to it today will determine whether humanity succeeds in eradicating hunger and poverty by 2030.

The State of Food and Agriculture: Mitigation

Oct 2016 - How we mitigate climate change and adapt to it today will determine whether humanity succeeds in eradicating hunger and poverty by 2030.

Livestock diversity helps cope with climate change

Oct 2016 - Livestock diversity or animal genetic resources are terms used to describe the pool of 38 species of domesticated birds and mammals with more than 8 800 breeds currently used for food and agriculture. This infographic shows how livestock diversity can help us to adapt to a hotter and harsher world ...more

Soils store and filter water - Improving food security and our resilience to floods and droughts

Dec 2015 - Functional soils play a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and droughts. Water infiltration through soil traps pollutants and prevents them from leaching into the groundwater. Moreover, the soil captures and stores water, making it available for absorption by crops, and thus minimizing surface ...more

Where Food Begins

May 2015 - Healthy soils are critical for global food production, but we are not paying enough attention to this important "silent ally," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said on the eve of World Soil Day, to be celebrated on 5 December. Healthy soils not only are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre ...more

Our soils under threat

Aug 2015 - Soils are under increasing pressure of intensification and competing uses for cropping, forestry, pasture and urbanization.  The demands of a growing population for food, feed and fibre are estimated to result in a 60 percent increase by 2050.  These pressures combined with unsustainable land uses and management practices, as well ...more

Soils are the foundation for vegetation

Aug 2015 - Healthy soils are crucial for ensuring the continued growth of natural and managed vegetation, providing feed, fibre, fuel, medicinal products and other ecosystem services such as climate regulation and oxygen production. Soils and vegetation have a reciprocal relationship. Fertile soil encourages plant growth by providing plants with nutrients, acting as ...more

Forests and land use

Mar 2013 - Forests are invaluable to all life on earth. Forests cover 1/3 of the total land area Forests contain most of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods US$108 billion a year of medicinal plants from tropical forests The rate of deforestation, though slowing, is still alarmingly high. 5.2 million ...more

Understanding water scarcity

Jul 2009 - Physical water scarcity occurs when there is not enough water to meet all demands. Arid regions are most often associated with physical water scarcity, but an alarming new trends is an artificially created physical water scarcity due to over allocation and overdevelopment of water resources. Symptoms of physical water scarcity ...more