BENEFIT-REALISE / ISRIC conducted Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) virtual training

Legacy spatial soil information, mainly soil resource inventories in Ethiopia, have been generated based on conventional soil survey approaches that require expert based /mental models to generate spatial relationships between observed and unvisited sites. This classical vector/polygon based and very expensive approach is characterized with low accuracy in soil mapping and generates qualitative outputs with unknown uncertainty and purity.
With the advancement of remote sensing, GIS, geo-statistical models and techniques, soil and terrain mapping has shifted towards a modern digital approach, known as Digital Soil Mapping (DSM). DSM enables experts to generate a continuous, raster based quantitative soil and terrain information with quantified accuracy and uncertainty. It has demonstrated that reasonably accurate soil maps can be produced using quantitative predictive models and expedite soil surveys with fewer observations, leading to a dramatic reduction in field and laboratory cost.
Despite various fragmented efforts by various initiatives, DSM is still at an infant stage in Ethiopia. Since DSM application requires new skills, availability and accessibility of standardized remote sensing based environmental predictors/covariates that are not widely available in Ethiopia, the activity was undertaken with the collaboration of international partners such as Wageningen University and Research/ ISRIC (International Soil Reference and Information Centre) through BENEFIT partnership project.
To transform and institutionalize DSM at various institutions including at the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the recent effort of BENEIT-REALISE /ISRIC focused on building the capacity of soil surveyors and geospatial through provision of short term trainings. The virtual training titled “Introduction to Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) with focus on WRB soil class mapping” was given to 9 geospatial experts and 10 soil surveyors, 1 national coordinator from Soil Information and Mapping Directorate, MoA from 23 November to Tuesday 01 December, 2020.

The opening remark given by Dr. Mandefro Nigusse, State Minister of MoA highlighted the recent joint initiatives on low potential areas soil mapping and characterization with semi details scale (50 meters) is critically important for the MoA ambition to build capacity on soil information and mapping for agricultural development and soil fertility management. MoA are very grateful for Wageningen University and more particularly to ISRIC for leading the soil mapping and providing a consecutive training to our staff and other professional in the field. The training enhances the MoA and other partners such as Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and Higher Learning Institution (HLI) to build their capacity and execute their respective responsibilities. We envisage such fruitful partnership to continue.

In his welcoming speech Dr. Tewodros Tefera (PhD), BENEFIT-REALISE Programme Manage gave an overview of the programme’s achievement so far (listed below) and noted that BENEFIT-REALISE and MoA partnership is forged to fill an existing gap in the promotion of sustainable soil characterization and management. He stated soil information need to be available to support decision making in managing soils for development such as food security, agriculture and livelihoods. He thanked Johan and his team (ISRIC) for their dedication and commitment to provide this training despite the global challenge we faced due to coronavirus pandemic.  

Overall, BENEFIT-REALISE programme with support from ISRIC have complemented the efforts of MoA’s national soil information system through the following deliverables/achievements:

  • Semi-detailed-50 meter spatial soil information generation across 15 weredas;
  • State-of-the-art countrywide 50meter-geomorphic map (for wider application not only for soil/land resource mapping but also for agro ecological zonation and other biophysical mapping and updating   missions);
  • Digital soil mapping capacity building of national soil surveyors and geospatial professionals; and
  • State-of-the-art countrywide 50meter-remotesensing based environmental covariates/predictor variables for further soil/land resource mapping efforts by the MoA.

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