Introduction

Sustainable agricultural development requires a systematic effort towards the planning of land use activities in the most appropriate way, apart from several other institutional and policy programmme initiatives. Agro-ecological zoning (AEZ) is one of the most important bases for agricultural developmental planning because survival and failure of particular land use or farming system in a given region heavily relies on careful assessment of agro-climatic resources. A practical zoning approach thus arises because climate represented by thermal and moisture regimes forms small geographic areas, resulting in a variable mosaic of specialized areas, capable of supporting varied land use systems (Troll, 1965). The approach is used to categorize agroclimatically uniform

Satellite Remote Sensing and GIS Applications in Agricultural Meteorology pp. 213-233

geographical areas for agricultural developmental planning and other interventions. A framework of agro-ecological zoning describing concepts, methods and procedures was conceptualized for the first time by FAO (1976). Agro-ecological zoning refers to the division of an area of land into land resource mapping units, having unique combination of landform, soil and climatic characteristics and or land cover having a specific range of potentials and constraints for land use (FAO, 1996). The particular parameters used in the definition focus attention on the climatic and edaphic requirements of crop and on the management systems under which the crops are grown. Each zone has a similar combination of constraints and potentials for land use and serves as a focus for the targeting of recommendations designed to improve the existing land use situation, either through increasing production or by limiting land degradation. The addition of further layers of information on such factors as land tenure, land availability, nutritional requirement of human and livestock populations, infrastructure and costs and prices, has enabled the development of more advanced applications in natural resource analysis and land use planning. AEZ can be regarded as a set of core applications, leading to an assessment of land suitability and potential productivity. An output of AEZ studies includes maps showing agro-ecological zones and land suitability, quantitative estimates on potential crop yields and production. Such information provides the basis for advanced applications such as land degradation assessment, livestock productivity modeling, population support capacity assessment and land use optimization modeling.

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