Thursday, May 23, 2013

African soil diversity mapped for the first time

Bernard Appiah in A team of international experts has drawn up the Soil Atlas of Africa — the first such book mapping this key natural resource — to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use.

They say that despite soil's importance, most people in Africa lack knowledge about it, partly because information about it tends to be confined to academic publications read only by scientists. "There was an existing database on soil that had not been updated by soil science experts from Africa, so we asked them to provide us with new information, which we translated into a form understandable to key stakeholders," says Arwyn Jones, a member of the soil team at the Land Resource Management Unit of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, which produced the atlas.

The project began four years ago, and involved experts from the European Commission, the African Union and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The atlas was released at the meeting of the African Union and European Union commissions in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month (25–26 April).

Robert Zougmoré, regional programme manager for West Africa at the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, says the atlas displays the diversity of African soil for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes. "We documented all the different types of soils and mapped them so that our decision-makers at national and regional levels can use the maps to decide where to invest in terms of food production and urbanisation," he says....

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