Harrij van Velthuizen profile picture

Harrij van Velthuizen

Guest Senior Research Scholar

Water Security Research Group

Biodiversity and Natural Resources


Harrij Tonco van Velthuizen
IIASA Research Associate - Land Resources Ecologist.

University of Amsterdam - Physical Geography for Land use Planning (1968-1975)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1976-2000)
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (since 2001)
Harrij van Velthuizen is a land resources ecologist by education. He was a member of the working group that developed the FAO's Agro-Ecological Zones Methodology (AEZ), and through FAO he has been intensively involved in AEZ applications at country and regional levels for agriculture, bio-energy, forestry and livestock development planning.

In 2001 van Velthuizen joined the IIASA Land Use Change and Agriculture Program as Senior Research Scholar. Together with his IIASA colleagues and colleagues from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, he conducted and published a substantial number of studies and papers on global, regional and national agricultural and bio-fuel feedstock production potentials for historical, base line and future climatic conditions.

Since 2001, van Velthuizen also served as advisor to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and in this capacity he produced with the FAO's Sustainable Development Department a report on "Geophysical factors that influence agricultural production and rural vulnerability".

Between 1995 and 2001 he served as IIASA guest researcher in the FAO/IIASA/ECU/UNEP/SOW-VU Project on "Climate Change and Global Agricultural Potential". As FAO Chief Technical Advisor he coordinated the ILRI/FAO/IIASA Project on "Potential of Forage Legumes in Land-Use Intensification in West Africa" and a FAO/UNDP project concerned with "Utilization of Agro-ecological Zones Databases" at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council. During this period he was also advisor for agro-ecological zoning in a DANIDA/World Bank project on "Environmental Information Systems Development" in Ghana. With IIASA he provided land potential assessments of developing countries for the FAO perspective studies "World Agricultural: Towards 2010" and "World Agriculture: Towards 2015-2030".

Prior to 1995, van Velthuizen was responsible, on behalf of FAO, for the compilation of crop production system zonation for the IGAD countries in East Africa (1993-1995), served as Chief Technical Advisor/Team Leader (1989-1992) in the FAO/UNDP Agro-ecological Zones Project of China, and provided long term inputs in national studies concerned with agro-ecological assessments for agricultural development planning for Kenya (1984-1989), Bangladesh (1983-1988) and Mozambique (1981-1984).

• Agro-ecological zones (AEZ) methodology development: FAO Headquarter AEZ Working Group (1977-1979)
• Crop Monitoring and Early Warning: FAO/Dutch Government Crop monitoring and early warning Project - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (1979-1980).
• AEZ country applications: Mozambique (1981-84), Bangladesh (1982-88), Kenya (1984-90), China (1989-1992). Also: Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Tanzania, Syria, Jordan, Brazil, Nigeria, Europe, Northern Eurasia, Ghana, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Mauritius (1984 – 2013).
• CPSZ: FAO/Italian Government: Crop Production System Zones of the IGAD Region. Published report cum electronic atlas and country-wise data volumes for Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. (1992-1995).
• GAEZ v1: First global assessment of potential crop productivity. CD-ROM includes model description and methodology presentation, downloadable maps and tables (2000).
• FAEZ: Companion model of AEZ that enables assessments of potential productivity of forest tree species. The model engine for the estimation of biomass increments is based on the Chapman-Richard biomass increment model, and the AEZ potential biomass model. FAEZ was implemented for tree species of North, Central and East Asia different assumptions of forest resources management and exploitation, namely: conservation forestry, traditional production forestry and biomass plantation forestry (2001).
• GAEZ v2: Second global assessment of potential crop productivity. Based on updated information on soil, terrain and climatic conditions worldwide, an updated global assessment of potential crop productivity was released. The CD-ROM contains: downloadable maps, tables, a research report on methodology and results, and an executive summary report illustrating the main findings (2002). Based on this work a special report was prepared for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002, entitled ‘Climate Change and Agricultural Vulnerability'.
• HWSD: Existing regional and national updates of soil information worldwide were harmonized and integrated in the Harmonized World Soil Database, in partnership with FAO, ISRIC – World Soil Information, JRC - European Soil Bureau and the Institute of Soil Science of the China Academy of Sciences. Estimated soil properties are based on soil profile data and, taxo- and pedo-transfer functions. (2009, 2012).
• Global biofuel potentials: For the European Commission financed 'Refuel Project' (2006-2008): ‘EU roadmap for biofuels in transport sector', and for an OFID study: 'Biofuels and Food Security - Implications of accelerated biofuels production' (2007-2008), respectively Pan-European and Global assessments of suitability and production potentials of biofuel feed-stocks were estimated and published. The biofuel feedstocks included: (i) Sugarcane, maize, sweet sorghum, maize and cassava (for bio-ethanol), (ii) rapeseed, soybean, oil palm, and jatropha (for bio-diesel), and (iii) ligno-cellulosic feedstocks: willow, eucalyptus, poplar, miscanthus, switch grass and reed canary grass (for second generation bio-ethanol). In 2017, with WWF South Africa, a study was carried out and published on 'Sustainable Aviation Biofuel Feedstock Potential in Sub-Saharan Africa - A systems analysis investigation into the current and future potential for biofuel feedstock production', including additional bio-energy feedstocks namely: Camelina, solaris energy tobacco and triticale.
• GAEZ v3: This third GAEZ update relies on improved databases, enhanced procedures and algorithms. Results were transferred to a publically accessible GAEZ Data Portal (2010).
• GAEZ v3 Data Portals: The data portals provide on line data access, visualization and provides download options (IIASA, 2010 and FAO, 2012). The data covers five thematic areas:
o Land resources, including agro-ecology, soils, terrain, and land cover;
o Agro-climatic resources, including a variety of climatic indicators;
o Agricultural suitability and potential yields under multiple management levels;
o Downscaled actual yields and production of the main crop commodities, and
o Yield and production gaps, in terms of ratios and differences between actual yield and production and potentials of the main crops.
 GAEZ v4: The latest GAEZ update includes 2010 baseline database development and production runs for historical period 1961-2010 and for a selection of future climate simulations using recent IPCC AR5 climate model outputs for four different representative concentration pathways (RCPs). This update also includes major revisions of model parameters.

On the foundation of GAEZ v4 technology, various additional regional, national and sub-national AEZ-type studies are being carried out and published or ongoing.

Last update: 07 APR 2021


FAO & IIASA (2022). Afghanistan's Agro-ecological zoning atlas. Part 2: Agro-ecological assessments. First revision. Rome, Italy: FAO and IIASA. ISBN 978-92-5-135628-9 10.4060/cb8302en.

Fischer, G., Nachtergaele, F.O., van Velthuizen, H., Chiozza, F., Francheschini, G., Henry, M., Muchoney, D., & Tramberend, S. (2021). Global Agro-ecological Zones (GAEZ v4)- Model Documentation. FAO & IIASA , Laxenburg, Austria; Rome, Italy. 10.4060/cb4744en.

Tramberend, S. , Fischer, G., & van Velthuizen, H. (2020). RCP 8.5 Ghana. High-end climate change impacts on crop production. DOI:10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-8955. In: European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2020, 4-8 May 2020, Vienna, Austria.

Dixon, J., Boffa, J.-M., Williams, T.O., de Leeuw, J., Fischer, G., & van Velthuizen, H. (2020). Farming and food systems potentials. In: Farming Systems and Food Security in Africa Priorities for Science and Policy under Global Change. Eds. Dixon, J., Garrity, D.P., Boffa, J.-M., Williams, T.O., Amede, T., Auricht, C., Lott, R., & Mburathi, G., Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 978-1-138-96335-1 10.4324/9781315658841.