Africa Soil Information Service

A survey of African soils, the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS), was launched in 2009 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and also from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) through a grant to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

AfSIS, led by Pedro Sanchez, former World Food Prize Laureate, is developing continent-wide digital soil maps for sub-Saharan Africa that will cover more than 90% of Africa’s human population living in 42 countries. Using techniques such as digital soil mapping, infrared spectroscopy, remote sensing, statistics, and integrated soil fertility, the survey aims to build up a more comprehensive picture of African soils and to not only make these results available to farmers but to help them understand the implications for land management through extension and training. Indeed capacity building is a key part of the AfSIS project delivered through education to strengthen individual and institutional abilities to produce and use soil information as well as training for soil scientists.

Currently AfSIS ground teams are surveying and sampling 60, 100 km2 sentinel sites, which are statistically representative of the variability in climate, topography and vegetation of the project area. For more information on the survey, which feeds into larger projects to map global soils, visit their website.

Connecting Farmers to Markets Through Ethical Partners

Smallholder farmers, estimated to number some 500 million, are often disconnected from formal and export food markets. But new opportunities for linking retailers in Europe and the US with producers in Africa are emerging.

Some of the barriers smallholder farmers face in making these connections, as discussed in a new paper authored by Abbi Buxton and Bill Vorley of the International Institute for Environment and Development, include the high standard of products retailers require, timely delivery of products, and certification.

The paper discusses a four year project, which investigated new business models to address these barriers. The project was in collaboration with the Sustainable Food Laboratory, Catholic Relief Services, Rainforest Alliance and The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project examined four different value chains, this paper, the first in a series of four, looked at flowers in Kenya. [Read more…]