Supporting Ethiopia's soil analysis capacity
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) through the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) is providing scientific and advisory support to the Ethiopian Government on soil spectroscopy as part of the new Ethiopia Soil Information System (http://africasoils.net/EthiopiaSoils). The Centre participates in AfSIS through its global research project on land health.
The unit concentrates on reducing risks to land health while focusing on agroforestry interventions to enhance land productivity. A recent collaboration between the Centre and AfSIS resulted in an endorsement by Bill Gates.
Bill Gates, in a recent visit to Ethiopia, was demonstrated soil spectroscopy in the field by AfSIS lead scientist, Dr Markus Walsh of Columbia University. In his notes Bill Gates commented:
"Dr. Markus Walsh, Sr. showed me a new, state-of-the-art technology called NIR spectroscopy that’s part of a digital revolution in agriculture. This portable device, which quickly and cheaply analyzes soil conditions, is a fantastic breakthrough that will help farmers everywhere. But it’s especially valuable in countries like Ethiopia, where farmers haven’t been able to afford laboratory tests but need to know how to amend soils to grow better crops. The spectroscopy is part of an even bigger agricultural digital information system that will provide a comprehensive and detailed map of soil properties across the country.’’
ICRAF and Columbia University subsequently responded to a request by Bill Gates to provide an information package on the technology.
ICRAF also received a delegation of five scientists for follow-up training in soil spectroscopy, 9-10 May 2012, from Ethiopia, including the Director of the National Soil Testing Centre (NSTC), and staff from Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Centre (ARARI) in Ethiopia, the University of Berne, Switzerland, and the University of Central Asia (UCA)’s National Soils Program in Tajikistan.
These engagements are vital for the Centre as it embraces its participation in the CGIAR's CRP5 program. This program focuses on sustainable management of the natural resources base supporting agriculture across the developing world.