Lablab, Egyptian Bean or Pulse? Reclassifying Crops for SPAM Conformity

Picture it. You're working at HarvestChoice processing incoming crop statistics and you come across some figures for harvested area of dolichos in Kenya.

Having never heard of dolichos, you google it and discover that dolichos are also known as hyacinth bean, Egyptian bean or lablab (Lablab purpureus). According to Wikipedia, “This little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable land care.” It's a fast growing, nitrogen-fixing, semi-perennial belonging to the Fabaceae family; cultivated in South Asia and Africa and made into curries, foraged by livestock, or serving conservation needs.

But how will the Spatial Production Allocation Model (SPAM), as well as other global models which use its products (IMPACT), account for this crop given all the different names it goes by? Should you categorize lablab under ‘beans’, ‘other pulses’, ‘vegetables’, or ‘other crops’? Your brow furrows with increasing responsibility as you take on the weight of this decision.

Luckily for you and your brows, the SPAM team has designed a data model which maintains the incoming crop names, be they local, obscure or popular, and maps them to official “crop-prep” names. The model then maps these distinct and unambiguous crop-prep names to three different lists of correspondence: SPAM 2000, SPAM 2005 and FAO. This way the original, local crop can be programmatically aggregated to any one of these schemas while remaining in a disaggregated yet conformed state. Original, local crop statistics are then checked against FAO totals from FAOSTAT of the same crop aggregation, country and year for accuracy.

As more crops from more country-level datasets are processed, the crop dictionary expands, becoming more like a thesaurus where local names to crop-prep correspondences serve to inform future efforts to conform crops.

Explore SPAM's crop dictionary in the visualization below. Click across tabs to explore crop mapping in different directions; prep to spam, fao to prep, etc. Click on the icons at the bottom of the viz to download a table, crosstab or PDF.

P.S. Try using the viz below to find which category lablab maps in SPAM 2005.

For more savory SPAM morsels visit MapSpaM.



HarvestChoice, 2012. "Lablab, Egyptian Bean or Pulse? Reclassifying Crops for SPAM Conformity ." International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC., and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. Available online at

Jul 16, 2012