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Emerging Use Cases for Digital Soil Nutrient Maps of Ethiopia

Map showing 8 soil management areas of Ethiopia.
Each color in the map represents a distinct soil nutrient management area, based on analysis of current remote sensing imagery and thousands of new ground samples collected throughout Ethiopia. These areas contain different proportions and amounts of essential soil nutrients needed for plant growth. Data Sources: Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture & Agricultural Transformation Agency, Ethiopia Soil Information System (EthioSIS), and the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS).

In 2010, the government of Ethiopia released a National Growth and Transformation Plan to provide a strategic framework for development of its agricultural sector.  The overall target of this initiative is at least 8.1% annual agricultural growth, with an increase of 2200 Birr (~US$ 115) in the values of marketed agricultural projects per smallholder household in 153 districts (Agricultural Growth Priority Woredas). Other key targets include more than doubling the production of cereal crops, from 18.1 to 39.5 million metric tons, and tripling the number of farmers who currently receive relevant agricultural extension services.

Such efforts, and the related decisions about land management, are not typically supported by systematic natural resource information. For example, fertilizer recommendations often are not adjusted to local environmental and economic conditions, resulting in “blanket recommendations” for an entire country. The Ethiopia Soil Information System (EthioSIS), an initiative led by the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), aims to address these gaps by rapidly developing a nationwide soil information system.

As part of this initiative, soil scientists and Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists at the ATA & Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia, working with researchers at the Earth Institute, are developing a first round of digital soil fertility maps, which are among the most detailed available anywhere in the world.

The map shown here brings together information about essential macro and micro soil nutrients, to identify eight “soil nutrient management areas” (SNMA’s). SNMA’s are defined according to distinct, archetypal compositions of 11 essential soil nutrients needed for plant growth.  By basing efforts to improve soil fertility directly on soil nutrient composition, the Ministry will be able to identify key problems that are often overlooked, and will be able to customize responses where different nutrient combinations can make a big difference.

We anticipate that the information contained in these maps will contribute to overall efforts to restore and improve soil fertility, including aiding in evaluating the amount of fertilizer needed and adjusting fertilizer blends, to help sustainably meet the government’s agricultural sector development and poverty reduction targets.


This blog is part of the Map of the Month series produced by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). The map was developed by senior research scientist Markus Walsh and associate research scientist Jiehua Chen, both of Agriculture and Food Security Center (AFSC) and by CIESIN senior research assistant Kimberly Peng. Commentary was written by CIESIN senior staff associate Sonya Ahamed, with input from Walsh and AFSC senior research scientist Cheryl Palm. EthioSIS  is supported by the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), a project led by the Columbia Global Center (CGC) in Nairobi and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.



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10 years ago

What is the legend of the map? To wich nutrients do 1 2 3 .. refer to?

7 years ago


Is there an article that gives more information about the map? what do the levels mean? what nutrients were taken into account? which methods were used?