Africa Soil Information Service

Columbia Global Centers | Africa

Columbia Global Centers | Africa begun implementing the next phase of the Africa Soils Information Service (AfSIS) Project in June 2013 with $4.902 million dollars in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

AfSIS was first set up in 2008 with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AfSIS is developing a continent-wide, comprehensive digital soil map for sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in history, using new types of soil analysis and statistical methods, and conducting agronomic field trials with farmers in selected sites.

Knowledge about the condition of African soils and landscapes is incomplete and badly out of date. Africa’s population is projected to double over the next 25-30 years, which will place a growing burden on the agricultural sector. The economic loss of inappropriate soil use amounts to billions of dollars per year. Thus, improving the management, productivity and sustainability of African soils is an urgent priority. In response, AfSIS has pioneered a unique scientific effort to provide quality soil data to support “evidence-based” decision making which can enhance agricultural and economic productivity, environmental sustainability and climate change adaption.

The ultimate aim of the project is to use this data to empower small-holder farmers in Africa, by providing them with accurate recommendations on land use which will enable them to respond in ways which increase productivity whilst maintaining environmental sustainability. AfSIS aims to contribute to the fight against poverty by increasing food security.

An unprecedented 17.5 million km2 encompassing more than 90% of Africa’s human population in 42 countries has been mapped to date. As a result, we can now accurately predict soil properties and optimal utilization at a resolution of 30m2 in some countries, and 500m2 across the continent.

Under the stewardship of the Columbia Global Centers | Africa, over the next eighteen months the AfSIS project will continue mapping activities underway since 2008, design innovative ICT applications and technologies, as well as develop business plans for the use of map data to ensure project sustainability in the future. Focus will shift from mapping to the practical use of map information, such as the design of web-based soil management tools and recommendations for Governments, farmers, local agricultural extension agents, as well the development of business plans for possible commercial applications. These products and services will be planned and tested in four pilot countries – Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana – and it is anticipated that these will then be taken up by other African countries.

The transition period, set to end in November 2014, will build the project’s capacity to move to its final phase. Once the second phase is concluded, it is hoped AfSIS will be a self-sustaining enterprise under the stewardship of African governments.

For more information, please visit the AfSIS website: www.africasoils.net

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