Soil Atlas of Africa created to help farmers, land managers

May 23, 2013 at 5:21 PM
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BRUSSELS, May 23 (UPI) -- International experts say they've created a Soil Atlas of Africa to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand soil's diversity and importance.

Despite its importance, most people in Africa lack knowledge about soil, partly because most information tends to be limited to publications read only by scientists, said researchers at the at the land resource management unit of the European Commission's joint research center, which produced the atlas.

The 4-year soil atlas project involved experts from the European commission, the African Union and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Regional users [of the atlas] have the opportunity to know about trends, problem hot spots and patterns of soil distribution," Peter Okoth, a natural resources consultant in Nairobi, told Britain's The Guardian.

The atlas displays the diversity of African soil for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes, researchers said.

"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 urbanization," said Robert Zougmore, regional program manager for west Africa at the CGIAR research program on climate change, agriculture and food security.

"Using the atlas, we can identify regions such as central Africa, some parts of west Africa, and southern Africa where a type of fertile soil called vertisol -- which maximizes crop yields -- can be found in greater quantities."

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