Petterik Wiggers, Panos Pictures UK.

Ethiopia establishes a soil information service based on CGIAR-developed methods

The Ethiopian Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has just launched the Soil Health and Fertility Ethiopian Soil Information System based on the soil health surveillance methods developed by the Africa Soil Information Service, which is hosted by the CGIAR. Recognizing the lack of up-to-date and high resolution soil information in Ethiopia, the ATA Soils team will support the establishment of EthioSIS, ultimately creating the most detailed soil map of any country in the world. The team’s primary implementation partners include the Ethiopian National Soil Testing Center and the Africa Soil Information Service.

Georgina Smith/CIAT

The soil mapping exercise will involve the collection, analysis, and cataloging of over 100,000 soil samples by multiple teams of soil researchers. The teams will travel to 97 sentinel sites all over the country, collect samples, and transport the soils to federal and regional labs for analysis. From there, Ethiopian scientists will develop soil maps using the most sophisticated techniques available, including soil infrared spectrometry and remote sensing.

The resultant high quality soil information will inform policies, interventions, and recommendations developed across Ethiopia, particularly those involving fertilizer, land use/degradation, and seed varieties. Instead of assuming soil types are consistent across large parts of Ethiopia, government officials, the academic community, non-profits organizations, and the private sector will work toward transforming the agriculture system with nuance and precision. The CGIAR, through the World Agroforestry Centre, is advising EthioSIS on soil sampling, processing and analysis procedures and the establishment of soil laboratories.

World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study to pilot CGIAR soil monitoring methods

The World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture, in a project funded by DFID, is to pilot CGIAR’s soil health monitoring methods based on rapid, low cost soil analytical methods based on infrared spectroscopy developed at the World Agroforestry Centre. The project will include testing handheld spectrometers for direct assessment of soil fertility in the field. Having panel samples of the soil of plots directly linked to a household survey will aid understanding of crop productivity among smallholders, as well as of the coping mechanisms adopted by farmers faced with deteriorating soil conditions.

CGIAR to contribute soil monitoring systems to a new Africa agricultural monitoring network

The Africa Monitoring System was launched in March 2012 with a $10 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project is lead by Conservation International with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa and the Earth Institute, Columbia University. This tracking and diagnostic system aims to holistically monitor agricultural productivity, ecosystem health, and human health with near-real-time and multi-scale data into an open-access online dashboard that policy makers will be able to freely use and customize to inform smart decision making. The CGIAR, through the World Agroforestry Centre, will contribute to the design of soil health surveillance systems. The three-year project is expected to set the stage for a larger global-monitoring system.