Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS)

So far…


What are the origins of the EthioSIS project?

Low productivity in Ethiopia’s agriculture sector is caused in part by a range of factors related to poor soil conditions:


  • Severe land degradation;
  • Nutrient depletion;
  • Complete removal of crop residue from the fields;
  • Fragmented or not application of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) technology
  • Little or no manure application;
  • Imbalanced inorganic fertilizer use; and
  • Lack of comprehensive soil fertility information.

A number of soil-related studies and programs have been carried out in the past to reverse the impacts of such constraints.However, acquiring updated and accurate soil-related information has remained a challenge. Consequently, further scientific analysis has been hindered that could provide strategic information for policy makers, researchers, extension workers and smallholder farmers.

As such, soil health and fertility were prioritized as key components of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, with potential to increase smallholder farmers’ productivity. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the ATA thus developed the Soil Health and Fertility Roadmap and the Soil Health Strategy in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Both aim to address key soil fertility bottlenecks and transform the agriculture sector, by incorporating soil health,increasing yield and ultimately doubling smallholder farmers’ incomes.

The systematic organization of soil-related information has resulted in challenging the use of DAP as a blanket recommendation. A detailed woreda-level soil fertility status atlas was therefore paramount to tailoring fertilizer recommendations to specific soil fertility conditions. Additional scrutiny of land features (vegetation, climactic factors, erosion risk, etc.), physical and chemical properties of soil is critical for acquiring knowledge on soil health and fertility.

EthioSIS was devised to systematically collect soil-related information, employing state of the art methodologies, like remote sensing, and geo-statistical predictions, among others.  Its goal is to build and develop a central depository database to house accurate soil information available for end users.

What is the current status of EthioSIS?

Woreda Soil Survey

As of February 2015, soil fertility mapping has been conducted in 375 woredas, using geo-statistical predictions to produce digital soil maps. Of these, fertilizer recommendations have been finalized for 316 woredas. The effort began in AGP-target woredas and was later scaled up. Mapping was done by modeling the relevant variables in relation to the soil analysis results determined by wet-chemistry and spectral techniques and other environmental variables called “covariates”. Covariates can explain the landscape and other features of a woreda.  Modeling helps to assess the soil nutrient status of individual woredas and therefore identify their deficiencies.  Preliminary findings have led to the recommendation of 14 types of fertilizer (13 blended and 1 compound) to modify the fertility status of soil in 205 woredas.
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Soil survey status (confluence point approach as dotted, and woreda level approach as shaded), February 2015

Confluence Point (CP) Survey

EthioSIS has also developed a soil resource database to serve as a base for the country’s resource mapping. So far, 59 grid-based confluence point (CP) soil surveys have been completed. This CP approach takes the intersection of latitude and longitude as a central point, and collects samples within 1-degree intervals.  Samples were randomly distributed within 10km-by-10km sampling blocks. A total of 60,000 soil samples were collected with 160 samples from each CP with a 1m soil profile partitioned into 20cm intervals.

Soil Analysis and Interpretations

EthioSIS has completed Tigray region’s soil fertility status and fertilizer requirement atlas. At least three more atlases are scheduled for development in the coming months.

Capacity Building

Massive national capacity building in technical knowledge transfer has been done and will continue throughout the project life cycle. The focus is on enriching local expertise in geo-statistical modeling, database management systems, and soil sample analyses using spectral and wet chemistry techniques. To support long-term capacity building, the project has been partnering with local universities and supporting 10 postgraduate students to carry out research on soil fertility and fertilizer recommendations. Building capacity in regional and national soil laboratories includes improving physical infrastructure and supplying high-tech laboratory equipment to seven soil laboratories in five regions. EthioSIS also works closely with MoA to further capacitate the MoA’s ICT center.

What are the future directions for EthioSIS?

EthioSIS is the result of contributions from numerous private, public and governmental organizations. As a sustainable exit strategy, the ATA plans to transition the project to the MoA as a permanent program. Two new directorates – Soil Fertility and Soil Information – have been established under the Ministry. Soil fertility assessments and digital soil mapping will hence continue under the MoA, and soil status and fertilizer recommendations will be modified accordingly.

Five fertilizer blending plants located in the four main regions of the country will produce blended fertilizer locally. One plant is already in operation and four are under construction, with the expectation that they will be operational by early 2015. The possibility of establishing other plants in the future through public-private partnerships is being explored.

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