iSDA’s work on soIl scIence and agronomIc technologIes buIlds on the R&D carrIed out for many years by AfSIS

iSDA’s work on soil science and agronomic technologies builds on the research and development carried out for many years by the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) until the end of 2018. The second phase of AfSIS partnered with four national programmes (Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania). iSDA plans to help many other African countries to adopt modern approaches to soil mapping, and agronomic research and data collection practices.

  • Ethiopia (EthioSIS)

    The Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS) was established in 2012 and developed in collaboration with the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and the Soil Resources Information and Mapping Directorate (SRIMD) of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Government of Ethiopia has recently established the Ethiopia Soil and Resource Institute (ESRI) within the Ministry of Agriculture, which will take over management of EthioSIS. Priorities include sustaining the soil information system and building national capacity in the field so as to improve soil health and fertility. EthioSIS continues to support the Ethiopian Growth and Transformation Programme 2 (GTP2). The plan expects a big demand for EthioSIS data and analysis as the regions develop their agricultural commercialisation plans. Within Ethiopia five different regions have been selected for soil sampling. Oromia has been fully mapped and there are now fertiliser blend recommendations for the region. In the Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz regions, spectral analysis and soil property mapping is also complete, although the spectral analysis and some wet chemistry is still to be carried out for the Ethio-Somali and Afar regions. In all regions the soil data and the map predictions are accompanied by GeoSurvey predictions and labelled satellite imagery.

  • Ghana (GhaSIS)

    The Soil Research Institute (SRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) led the process of establishing the Ghana Soil Information Service in 2015. GhaSIS has also established a mid-infrared soil spectroscopy as well as an X-ray fluorescence laboratory. GhaSIS has carried out the full development process from field data collection through to analysis and digital soil mapping for the Brong Ahafo Region, which is considered the bread-basket of Ghana. The resulting soil and cropland maps have been used to develop some early stage fertiliser blending recommendations. GhaSIS is currently engaged in a project supported by OCP and the Ministry of Agriculture to complete this process for the remainder of the country. GhaSIS has developed tool kits for soil fertility, soil suitability, soil properties, soil water availability and yield gap. It has also been involved in training technicians and professionals in AfSIS soil survey methods and conducting soil fertility mapping to enable fertilizers to be matched to local soil conditions and crop requirements.

  • Nigeria (NiSIS)

    The Nigerian Soil Information System (NiSIS) was established by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in 2014. In early 2017, FMARD through the Department of Agricultural Lands and Climate Change Management Services (ALCCMS) re-vamped NiSIS and appointed a new steering committee. A work plan for implementation of soil and plant surveys was prepared. It was agreed that the Institute for Agricultural Research; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ibadan, would lead the pilot studies in two states, Kebbi and Ebonyi. Soil and plant samples were collected from 790 locations, and analysed in the NiSIS spectral lab with reference analysis at ICRAF and Rothamsted Research. AfSIS protocols have also been used in multiple soil and crop management projects carried out in Nigeria including the Africa Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI), the Taking Maize Agronomy to Scale in Africa (TAMASA) and Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (AfDB TAAT) project, as well as collaborations with IDH and OCP.

  • Tanzania (TanSIS)

    The Tanzanian Soil Information Service (TanSIS) was established as a joint initiative with the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), funded joint by AfSIS and SARI and most recently iSDA. This initiative included the development of a spectral lab and soil archive at the SARI site in Arusha. The Government of Tanzania has recently established the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and TanSIS is now managed by TARI. TanSIS has completed around 80% of the national soil survey with some zones across three coastal regions remaining. All samples have been analyzed through MIR & XRF at the SARI lab with reference analysis at ICRAF and Rothamsted Research. The AfSIS team in Arusha has continued to update remote sensing and GIS data layers for mapping and monitoring, as well as developing and testing new schema for defining and mapping soil nutrient management zones. Most recently the group has recalibrated datasets from AfSIS spectral analysis to produce new ensemble predictions for extractable soil nutrients, soil organic carbon and total nitrogen.


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