A globally integrated Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS)

Fifty-six scientists from 16 countries met at ICRAF, Nairobi, Kenya to launch the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS) and conduct its first workshop. AfSIS is a pioneering tool that will address some of the pressing issues facing sub-Saharan Africa, such as food security, environmental degradation, and climate change by producing a web-based freely accessible digital soil map and an accompanying information system. AfSIS was launched with the Kenyan Minister of Planning, the secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, and other key actors affirming the project's significance.

A day-long field trip to a severely degraded site in western Kenya examined massive soil sedimentation into a tributary of Lake Victoria, illustrating the importance of AfSIS to prevent the impact of soil degradation. Constructive working group sessions on each objective outlined and detailed action plans. These include: decisions on a data model; development of the web applications; completion of technical specification manuals for soil sampling, laboratory analysis and modeling; design of field management trials; and the development of strategic collaborations with international partners. Participants developed a user-friendly software for managing and communicating between objectives and for reporting milestones to the Gates Foundation and AGRA.

Objectives of the Workshop

  • Objective One: Global Consortium. Establish the Global Digital Soil Map Consortium that will support the Africa Soil Information Service by developing uniform methods, building African technical capacity, monitoring and evaluation, and securing additional funding to map the rest of the world.
  • Objective Two: Cyberinfrastructure. Create data management systems for the Internet-based African Soil Information Service and the Global Soil Information Service by expanding existing cyber infrastructure for the global effort and operate it in SSA, through information system design, database implementation, web services, data publishing, and custom tool development.
  • Objective Three: Digital Soil Map. Develop digital soil maps and a establish soil health surveillance system in SSA, by: setting-up data, metadata, case definitions, spatial sampling and interpretation standards, acquiring, digitizing and spectrally characterizing soil legacy data; assembling, processing and interpreting remote sensing data and existing national soil maps, collecting and analyzing soil health data from (at least) 60 continentally representative sentinel sites, and generate high resolution digital maps of soil functional properties for 18.1 million km2 of SSA, including soil degradation status and biophysical and socioeconomic risk factors.
  • Objective Four: Soil Management Recommendations. Provide evidence-based, spatially explicit soil management recommendations to national research and extension providers and services of the countries involved. This will be accomplished by the development of: norms and standards for locally appropriate soil management practices; protocols for demonstrations and testing best-bet soil management practices at sentinel sites; collection and meta-analysis of literature and case-based soil management practices; installing and monitoring additional field trials at sentinel sites, modeling all of the above, including expert systems to assist the development of soil management recommendations by national institutes.
  • Objective Five: Serving the End User. Build capacity, serve end users, monitoring and evaluation, and management support. End users will include AGRA (top priority), national research organizations and extension providers, CGIAR centers, UN organizations, NARS, NGO's, donor agencies, private sector companies, other research projects, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and of African governments.

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