a1 International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), P.O. Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria.
a2 Department of Land, Water and Environment, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Jordan, P.O. Box 13693, Amman 11942, Jordan.
a3 General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research (GCSAR), P.O. Box 13348 Damascus, Syria.
Land suitability analysis is very important to assess and propose the most suitable land-use options. The reliability of land suitability evaluation is controlled by choosing the most limiting land characteristics and their ratings for the proposed land utilization types (LUTs). This study aims at examining the possibility of using current land use and farmers' knowledge as a starting point to suggest and/or modify land evaluation criteria, and to improve the land suitability evaluation process. The potential suitability of land for five LUTs (open range, improved range, rainfed barley, drip-irrigated vegetables and drip-irrigated trees) was evaluated near Al-Mafraq in Jordan using the maximum limitation method. The results indicated variable agreement levels between potential land suitability and current land use for different LUTs. Sixteen farms were selected to represent different cases of disagreement between potential suitability and current land use and were visited to explore the farmers' improved management practices adopted to overcome land-use limitations. Using proposed criteria, only 1% of the study area was highly suitable for drip irrigation, whereas most of the area was moderately or marginally suitable for other uses. This represents the conventional land evaluation procedures, which, in most cases, overlook the farmers' knowledge and practices that are adopted in a particular area to overcome biophysical limitations. The ratings for different land characteristics were modified based on comparisons with current land use, and by referring to farmers’ adopted management practices. Using modified criteria, the highly suitable area for drip-irrigated vegetables increased by 18% and the highly suitable area for drip-irrigated trees increased by 25%. The results emphasized that the consideration of the farmer's indigenous knowledge and current land use improve the land evaluation process, which leads to better utilization of limited land resources in fragile environments.
(Accepted January 26 2011)
(Online publication March 14 2011)