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June 2003

Announcement of a new publication

Choosing a method for poverty mapping

by Benjamin Davis

A joint publication of FAO's Economic and Social Department and Sustainable Development Department

Poverty and food security are heterogeneous phenomena in most countries; types and depth of poverty, measured in different ways, vary between and within countries and regions. Poverty mapping in its various forms involves techniques that permit sufficient disaggregation of a poverty measure to local administrative levels or small geographical units. All poverty-mapping techniques imply alternative schemes for weighting a particular poverty index, and may imply alternative poverty ranking of the chosen unit. The methods used vary from participatory poverty profiles to sophisticated econometric techniques; most are under continuing development. Each has different data requirements and implementation costs, and different advantages and disadvantages. Statistical error and possible bias are significant issues in poverty mapping.

With this publication, FAO seeks to explore the wide variety of tools available for poverty mapping. The purpose of this paper is to discuss poverty and food-security mapping in terms of relevance and available options for analysis, policy design and implementation in the rural sectors of developing countries. The paper presents and compares a large selection of poverty and food-security mapping methodologies in use, in order to provide some guidance as to their potential and appropriateness for different policy applications. Many of the methods analysed play a crucial role in targeting interventions, from rural anti poverty programs to allocation of public services to early warning systems. As such, this publication can assist practitioners in the formulation and implementation of poverty reduction, food security and sustainable development strategies, and in the monitoring of progress toward the achievement of various international commitments and goals within the framework of Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) and the Millennium Assessment Programme.

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