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The value of geospatial information for understanding the dynamics of development issues such as poverty and environment degradation is becoming well recognized. GIS-based analysis continues to improve our understanding of the links between poverty and the environment and demonstrates the value of poverty mapping methods. GIS is also becoming an invaluable tool to those concerned with livelihood improvements in vulnerable environments.

This publication is one of several that have been produced by the FAO Poverty Mapping project which involved a number of partners, including the United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG). The report contains an inventory and review of available databases which is intended to serve two main objectives:

1. Establishment of a base for the FIVIMS Global GIS databases (FGGD) produced by the FAO Poverty Mapping project.

2. Identification of a set of core global databases for UNGIWG, thus for the United Nations system.

The more interesting findings of the document include:

1. Publicly available global vector data libraries, containing multiple and differentiated layers of information representing spatial features such as roads, rivers and populated places, are currently only available at four broad scales: 1:1 million, 1:3 million, 1:5 million and 1:10 million.

2. The best baseline for vector data poverty mapping and emergency response is the Vector Smart Map Level 1 (VMap1) data library. This baseline supports global reference mapping and potential spatial analysis at a scale of 1:250 000, which is not generally available to most development practitioners.

3. There has been a recent and significant improvement in the availability of higher resolution derivative satellite and anthropogenic raster databases. This includes: multi-resolution and multi-temporal satellite image and land cover baselines, higher resolution digital elevation baselines, a variety of combined human population and census baselines, and multi-temporal climatological databases.

Overall, the informed reader can conclude there is need for substantial investment in improving the quality and coverage of global geospatial databases.

Once again, FAO would like to express its gratitude to the Government of Norway for the generous support of the Poverty Mapping project, which paved the way for greatly improving the methodologies and procedures by which geo-referenced poverty information can be managed and utilized in the future.

Jeffrey B. Tschirley
Chief, Environment and Natural Resources Service, FAO
Co-chair, UNGIWG

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