Lesotho Atlas of Sustainable Development by D.M. Bohra. Santa Clara, CA and Barmer, India: Trafford Publishing, 2003. 480 pp. US$120.00, €97.50, £67.57. ISBN 1-4120-3656-9.
In compiling the Lesotho Atlas of Sustainable Development, D.M. Bohra “attempt[ed] to map the state of sustainable human development” in Lesotho. To this end, “a range of indicators have been cartographically portrayed across districts, geographical zones, rural and urban areas and across gender base,” resulting in a “profile of salient features of sustainable development in Lesotho […] presented at national, district and regional levels in the sequel.” The indicators were chosen to enable evaluation of “the sustainable development process in terms of its overall impact on the quality of life and standard of living of people,” so that poverty alleviation could be addressed. A broad range of topics has been covered, including: population control measures; distribution and density of population; livestock and range management; food insecurity; energy; gender issues; radio listenership, television viewership, and newspaper magazine readership; migration; economic outlook; and various aspects of health and education. Each of the resulting 213 maps has an accompanying text, all of which are collected together, forming the second half of the book. The introduction provides a verbal summary of the statistics presented in map form.
Although diverse data are meant to be linked to Lesotho's geography, these are not GIS maps. Instead, bar graphs, pie charts and lists of text have been printed on top of an outline map of the country. In some instances, the actual map of Lesotho has been divided, with shading to distinguish properties of one region from another. The bar-graph-on-map approach to data presentation provides interpretive problems. For example, Map 127 “Evolution of pupil : teacher ratio : 1990; 1997” provides readers with the map of Lesotho divided into districts. A pair of bars with the two years' data protrudes from each district. While change within districts is obvious, comparison among districts is made difficult because the heights of the paired bars from district to district are unclear. The more traditional format of paired bars on the same baseline would have made all the bars' significance apparent.
Even if one understood the data being presented and wanted to use them, citation would be difficult because the source of the statistics is not indicated on any of the maps. The accompanying text for some maps alludes to reports or documents; one can only assume that this is where the data came from. Since the documents themselves are not fully cited, one is uncertain about how to find them in the references at the back—or whether the list of references is complete.
Due to the very unique mode of data presentation and the lack of source citation, the Lesotho Atlas of Sustainable Development cannot be recommended as the reference book it was clearly intended to be. Although the text celebrates this collection of data as a first for Lesotho because it combines statistics from several sources, it is difficult to see how this work could achieve another of the stated objectives: contributing to the construction of a baseline for use in assessing the effectiveness of the Government of Lesotho's anti-poverty agenda. For this purpose, a tabular format would have been more useful, statistics over a longer period of time would be needed, and the sources of data should not only be cited, but also analyzed critically for their accuracy.
The author clearly invested a great deal of effort in this project; it is unfortunate that the Lesotho Atlas of Sustainable Development cannot be recommended for any purpose.