Online data sources: the Atlas of African Agriculture Research & Development

Data source of the week

There is a wealth of information on e.g., land use, climate and species available online. But you need to know where to look. My plan is to highlight one example every week (let’s see if I can keep up with that). You’ll find more examples on

Atlas of African Agriculture Research & Development

Description: The e-atlas is a repository of data useful for agriculture research and development in Africa. It provides online, open-access to spatial data and tools that is generated and maintained by a community of research scientists, development analysts, and practitioners working in and for Africa. The e-Atlas highlights the ubiquitous nature of smallholder agriculture in Africa and provides data needed to describe the many factors shaping the location, nature, and performance of agricultural enterprises and the strong interdependencies among farming, natural resource stocks and flows, rural infrastructure, and the well-being of the poor.

Data: All in all it provide a rich source of information and data, covering more than 30 subjects centred around 7 main themes: Political, Demographic, and Institutional Classifications, Footprint of Agriculture, Growing Conditions, Role of Water, Drivers of Change, Access to Trade and markets, and Human Welfare.

You can also view most maps as an interactive online map. The maps can also be downloaded as a PDF; separately or the whole atlas as one document. It suppose to be available in e-pub format too (which would be fairly unique), but on Google Play it tells me it is not available for my country.

Many but unfortunately not all maps are available as spatial data layers. For at least one of these layers, the Livestock and Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems I have heard that this layer will be made available soon. Let’s hope the other layers will become available soon too.

Presentation: The data is presented in a clear and visually pleasing way. The latter is of course a matter of taste, but what is important, the website is easy to navigate and the data quick to find. I particularly like the way the data sets are described. The description follows a fixed format which focusses on four main questions: 1) what are the maps telling us, 2) why is it important, 3) what about the underlying data, and 4) where can I learn more? This makes it easy for anybody to quickly get an idea whether the data can/will be useful.

Bottom line: The number of data portals is growing fast, with a fair amount of overlap in data sources being covered. This website manages to stand out for the clarity and focus of its data presentation. It furthermore stands out for its detailed and clear description of the data sets (it really is an atlas in that sense). A point of critique would be that not all data is actually available as data layer. On the other hand, it provides the names and contact details of the authors of these maps so you always try your luck by directly contacting the authors of the map.


One thought on “Online data sources: the Atlas of African Agriculture Research & Development

  1. Thanks for the positive review. We are busy working on having as much content available for download as is permitted by the contributing authors. And we are adding new content. We plan to have three new entries by the end of January 2015. To view the entire atlas visit and follow us on twitter @AfrAgAtlas

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