Ghana To Undertake Soil Research To Improve Agriculture

The Soil Research Institute (SRI) of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is collaborating with the Columbia Global Centres (CGC), to develop soil suitability data that would help improve agricultural productivity in Ghana.

The programme is under the Ghana Soil Information Services (GHaSIS).

GHaSIS is the Ghana version of Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), a programme being sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build Africa’s capacity to undertake soil spectrometry, an alternative to traditional soil testing processes under the phase two of the four-year AfSIS programme.

Under AfSIS, African governments are being partnered to collect soil samples from confluence points in order to build a grid of soil data.

The data is then fed into sets of models that make it possible to predict soil properties, enabling the creation of soil maps with high levels of accuracy.  

Dr Bruce Scott Advisor to the CGC, Africa Office, said Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Tanzania have signed onto the approach which would enable AfSIS to work with them in building internal capacity to produce meaningful data and maps to help improve agricultural production through evidence based decision making.

He said knowledge about African soils remains incomplete and badly out of date. There are also limited use of scientific evidence about the condition of African soils and landscapes.

He said aagricultural decision-making at the farm-level is inadequately supported by accurate soil and landscape information.

Dr Scott, therefore, explained that AfSIS is to help improve agricultural decision making, productivity, profitability and sustainability of innovative IT-based technologies, products and services related to collecting, creating, analysing, interpreting, delivering and acting upon information that describes African soils and landscapes.  

He said the programme would involve development of an Africa digital soils map, open source software, strengthening capacity on AfSIS tools and products and supporting improvement of national soils information services. 

“The vision is to rapidly expand the effective use of scientific data and information to ensure that Africa’s soil, and landscape resources are described, understood and used effectively to help raise agricultural production and lower ecological footprints, and in so doing increase the prosperity of Africa’s rural communities.”

Mr Kwabena Abrefa Nketia, Research Fellow at the CSIR Soil Research said the purpose of GhaSIS is to rapidly expand the effective use of scientific data and information to ensure that Africa’s soil, and landscape resources are described, understood and used effectively to help raise agricultural production and improve livelihoods of our communities.

He said Ghana has started updating soil and soil suitability maps in some districts whilst the GHaSIS would help to boost the work already being done to the benefit of farmers and other land users.

Dr Joseph Ampofo, Director of Water Research Institute, on behalf of the Director General of CSIR said the workshop serves as the inception and planning meeting to afford stakeholders opportunities to learn about GHaSIS and map out the way forward.

He said government, development agencies and civil societies are deeply interested in identifying, which crops and crop varieties could be grown where and at what levels of inputs and land management to increase agricultural production to meet food security and ecosystem service needs.

GhaSIS seeks to address the types of agricultural soil and landscape management inputs needed to cover the potential gaps between the current agricultural production and ecosystem services and those needed by 2050.

It is also meant to determine the location and time specific soil and landscape information products and services that are most effective and impactful in increasing sustainable agricultural production in Africa.

He said the main outputs of the project would also assist Ghana to transform into modern agricultural research and data collection practices that are expected to result in faster agricultural development cycle times.

It would also incorporate user‐centered innovation and design principles, and produce a steady flow of location and time specific information technologies for improving soil and landscape management.