The first detailed digital soil map of sub-Saharan Africa is to be created. The £12.3m ($18m) project will offer farmers in 42 countries a "soil health diagnosis" and advice on crop yields.
Scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) will take soil samples from across the continent and analyse nutrient levels. These will be combined with satellite data to build a high-resolution map, to be disseminated freely to poor farmers by local extension workers.
The interactive online map, known as the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS), will be accompanied by advice on how to tackle soil deficient in nutrients. It is the first stage of project to build a global digital map - called GlobalSoilMap.net - covering 80% of the world's soils.
The initial four-year programme is being funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra). The project is being led by the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility (TSBF) Institute, at CIAT. They will collaborate with national agricultural research programs across Africa, including the establishment of regional soil health laboratories in Tanzania, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, and Malawi. Other partners include the World Soil Information (ISRIC) at Wageningen University in The Netherlands and the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre.