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African Soil Mapped For the Very First Time

timothy posted about a year ago | from the please-don't-call-it-dirt dept.

Earth 56

vikingpower writes "A team of international experts has drawn up the Soil Atlas of Africa — the first such book mapping this key natural resource — to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use. A joint commission of the African Union and the European Union has produced a complete atlas of African soils, downloadable as three hefty PDFs (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). The initiative was announced four years ago, and is intended 'to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use.' A digital, interactive series of maps is (still) in the making."

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56 comments

The consequence (1, Offtopic)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#43818059)

That will fasten the pace in which virgin forest disappears and be replaced by farmland / mining activities

Re:The consequence (2, Interesting)

haulbag (1160391) | about a year ago | (#43818377)

Or it could cause regional or tribal wars with people trying to get the best land for themselves.

Re:The consequence (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#43820107)

Or it could cause regional or tribal wars with people trying to get the best land for themselves.

The people that live there already know where the best soil is. Something to be said for living hundreds of generations the continent.
Its probably outsiders that need these maps, you know like agribusiness or something.

Re:The consequence (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#43820277)

Or it could cause regional or tribal wars with people trying to get the best land for themselves.

The people that live there already know where the best soil is. Something to be said for living hundreds of generations the continent.
Its probably outsiders that need these maps, you know like agribusiness or something.

you would be surprised how short the memory can be! especially how short the memory can be with ethnic cleansing of your tribe having happened in the past 50 years.

that is, many tribes don't know shit about what's 40 km away from where they live. it didn't matter to them anyways - and know practically nothing of the history of the soil 30 km away from them.

Re:The consequence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43821067)

...and YOU might be surprised at how long generational memory is. Reflected in tradition, belief, superstition, etc. Every culture living in the same place for THOUSANDS of years knows things you couldn't get from a map.

Though I see your point - sometimes the human race is embarrassingly forgetful of the wisdom of it's forefathers.

The forbidden fruit was knowledge.... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 10 months ago | (#43821175)

Knowledge is power, power can liberate or oppress, but this knowledge is in the open, meaning nobody has distinct power advantage because of access to this knowledge alone. Besides, this isn't local knowledge, it covers the entire continent. The map is unlikely to be used directly by local farmers living hand to mouth on the family plot. Rather it will be used by governments and NGO's to make better use of infrastructure funds for irrigation channels, grain silo's, etc. Yes it will also be used by corporations, but what those corporations do with it is ultimately at the mercy of the people. You can like or loath agribusiness, but if they disappeared tomorrow 3-4 billion people would starve to death in the following 6-12 months.

Re:The forbidden fruit was knowledge.... (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about 10 months ago | (#43821431)

Knowledge is power, power can liberate or oppress, but this knowledge is in the open, meaning nobody has distinct power advantage because of access to this knowledge alone. Besides, this isn't local knowledge, it covers the entire continent. The map is unlikely to be used directly by local farmers living hand to mouth on the family plot. Rather it will be used by governments and NGO's to make better use of infrastructure funds for irrigation channels, grain silo's, etc. Yes it will also be used by corporations, but what those corporations do with it is ultimately at the mercy of the people. You can like or loath agribusiness, but if they disappeared tomorrow 3-4 billion people would starve to death in the following 6-12 months.

This is going to sound harsh, but isn't THAT the solution to overpopulation. And lets see where are those people? Africa, India and Yes, China which can take care of its self. Well Now I know what Anonymous is protesting Monsanto

Re:The consequence (5, Insightful)

memnock (466995) | about a year ago | (#43818379)

Why should virgin forest be destroyed because of a soil map? The virgin forests are probably undisturbed because they exist in remote locations. Are there large agricultural corporations in Africa looking for land? Otherwise it would probably be too expensive for a subsistence farmer to deal with financial and other costs with clearing the land and establishing a farm.

Totally ignorant on this point, but I'm not aware of a correlation between forest land and underground minerals valued in the mining industry.

Chances are the map will point out the degraded farmlands and allow better planning for restoration. There might well be some destruction of virgin forest, but what about grasslands that are still in their native state? In the U.S., it's native prairie that's lost 99% of its area before European settlement. And most of that was to agriculture.

Re:The consequence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818621)

You not familiar with how third world subsistence farmers clear land? Hint: it involves fire.

Re:The consequence (1)

haulbag (1160391) | about a year ago | (#43818671)

FIrst world countries do that, too. Farmers in California burn off the stubble of their crops so they can put more carbon, etc. into the soil. It's also easier and cheaper to do that. It puts a lot of silica into the air and can cause breathing problems.

Re:The consequence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43821449)

No the farmers in California don't do anything. The illegal immigrants from Latin America they employ under the table do this because they are little better than the people in Africa so they don't know better. If the actual farmers did any work other than write checks and make decisions I would be surprised.

Re:The consequence (3, Interesting)

femtobyte (710429) | about 10 months ago | (#43819549)

When done as part of a long, slow cycle of rotating between different locations --- where patches of land have decades to recover between burnings --- "slash and burn" agriculture is actually a highly sustainable system (that has worked continuously for hundreds to thousands of years in some parts of the world). The problem is when slash-and-burn traditions are combined with corralling traditionally wide-ranging groups of people onto tiny demarcated sections of land ("why should those stupid peasants need all that empty forest they aren't using at all?") --- so the same parcel of land gets burned over and over, without recovery, and rapidly is turned into desolate wasteland.

Re:The consequence (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818727)

The people with the money and power to destroy the forests aren't African tribal people. The UK has a lot of corporate influence. As well as China.

See Darfur, oil. Private Armies. Blood Diamonds. Privately funded wars.

They don't get the money and weapons to oppress each other out of the dirt.

Africa is slowly climbing out of this though. So maybe its the right time for them to get this information. Maybe a few local people will benefit from it and not some outside foreign interests.

Maybe.

Re:The consequence (2)

Teun (17872) | about 10 months ago | (#43820315)

I have very recently visited a West African country with a great climate for agriculture.

Quite incredibly they import foodstuff, in the colonial years they exported plus the local market was much better served.

Their biggest problem is the size of the subsistence plots and the lack of proper registration of land owner ship, present governments in the area are as a rule not exactly efficient on such subjects.

But maybe the Chinese can use this map to buy some national and local politicians in areas with a good prospect for large scale farming, something western companies are reluctant to do.

With proper management Africa can increase it's present food production at least five-fold, a win for the local people and the whole world.

Re:The consequence (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 months ago | (#43821015)

But maybe the Chinese can use this map to buy some national and local politicians in areas with a good prospect for large scale farming, something western companies are reluctant to do.

Large scale farming is how Africa went from the cradle of civilization to a bunch of fucking sand to begin with. What a fantastic idea!

With proper management Africa can increase it's present food production at least five-fold, a win for the local people and the whole world.

Yeah, proper management... proper water management. But the water situation will only get worse worldwide for at least the next, day, century? As these nuclear plant seepages begin to reach water sources...

I love virgin forests (3, Funny)

howardd21 (1001567) | about a year ago | (#43818409)

I love virgin forests, it gives me wood

Re:I love virgin forests (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43819681)

Did you help with the mapping effort? I see you have a dirty mind.

Re:I love virgin forests (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43819853)

Your comment is awesome.

Re:The consequence (1)

MacDork (560499) | about a year ago | (#43818973)

What happened to information wants to be free? Perhaps that virgin forest might be a shitty resource for the type of activity planned for it. Knowledge of the soil can prevent mismanagement of the land.

And unless I'm mistaken, miners typically dig around in rock, not dirt. A soil survey tells you whether you're standing on a mollisol or an oxisol. It doesn't tell you squat about the bedrock beneath that soil. Good luck getting a soil auger throught that stuff.

Re:The consequence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43820061)

That's a good thing then, if we can 'fasten' the pace somewhere then surely it should at least stop accelerating. All we need to do then is to slow it down.

Ugh no editing (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818089)

After reading the summary, I wonder if this could help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use

Re:Ugh no editing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818177)

After reading the summary, I wonder if this could help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use

Everybody knows that niggers don't use anything sustainably. Duh.

Re:Ugh no editing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818261)

Considering that the vast majority of people in Niger engage in subsistence agriculture, and have done so for millennia, I suspect that they're fairly adept at managing their land. One only hopes that as industrialization continues apace they don't adopt typical American land management practices, unless they really want to terra-transform an entire country like we have.

Please avoid the N word (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818399)

It sickens me

Re:Please avoid the N word (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818755)

Niger is a country you MORAN.

Re:Ugh no editing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43819025)

I don't know, but maybe it can help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use.

But much more importantly, it might be able to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use and we all know how important it is to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use.

Re:Ugh no editing (1)

NedS (106884) | about a year ago | (#43819343)

What exactly is "mulching"?

Mulching is a process of inbred fertilization which employs certain decomposed organic materials-- including, but not limited to animal sediment-- to blanket an area in which vegetation is desired. The procedure enriches the soil for stimulated plant development while, at the same time, preventing erosion and decreasing the evaporation of moisture from the ground.

But seriously, I peeked at the comments hoping for a torrent, and found hate speech instead. Thanks cowards!

Re: Ugh no editing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43820639)

You mean you don't pocket-mulch?

Re:Ugh no editing (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43819367)

They need to repeat that phrase over and over again, because the *real* use will be to help Western mega-agribusiness "investors" rape the fucking shit out of the land, destroying anything of value to the local inhabitants in pursuit of quick profit. Giving a warm-fuzzy justification for the mapping helps sell the project better than "ADM will know *exactly* where to target campaigns to expel locals from the most valuable resources for producing products to ship overseas for more profitable sales (padding investors' pockets, while the indigenous population starves even more)".

Re:Ugh no editing (2)

Teun (17872) | about 10 months ago | (#43820347)

Western megacorps could really do a lot of good for the food production of Africa.

The problem is the local governments that with few exceptions are only interested in lining their private pockets.

As with this map institutions like the EU would be very happy to help local groups set up larger scale farming initiatives like corporations.

But because of a lack of law supporting and protecting such investments hardly anyone except the Chinese will succeed, the Chinese don't hesitate to buy the protection.

Re:Ugh no editing (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 10 months ago | (#43821347)

"Western megacorps could really do a lot of good for the food production of Africa.

The problem is the local governments that with few exceptions are only interested in lining their private pockets."

So in this case the most effective way to fix this would be

1 locate a strong but semi sane warlord
2 have a nice chat with said person and gain an "understanding"
3 install the rest of the bunch in said soil (making sure to update the maps of course)

I hate it when a summary repeats itself. (4, Funny)

tippe (1136385) | about a year ago | (#43818091)

I hate it when a summary repeats itself. I hate it when a summary repeats itself.

Re:I hate it when a summary repeats itself. (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#43818269)

That's no problem - just wait another eight hours or so, the story will appear again on the front page. Probably with the duplicate sentence eliminated. Maybe.

Rare earth? (1, Insightful)

ferrisoxide.com (1935296) | about a year ago | (#43818113)

But will this help me identify which bits of Africa to dig up so I can make TVs and mobile phones for the 1st world? Can't see the point really.

Re:Rare earth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43819269)

Unless you're Chinese, it's not your place to care. You missed that boat by almost 40 years.

First American companies made electronics. Then American companies moved production to Japan before moving themselves to Japan. Then Japanese companies moved production to China before moving themselves to China. China has been eyeballing Africa for a decade now. I wouldn't be surprised if China moves production to Africa....

Why U.S. wasn't part of it? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818209)

There are some rumors about US delegation interested only in mapping oil fields.

I'm still not clear on something (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818239)

Can it help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use?

Is it rich with watermelon and collard greens? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43818369)

Baracks brother still lives there.

EU actuaally useful? (0, Flamebait)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#43818763)

It disturbs me a bit to see EU associated to something actually useful to mankind. Usually it only cares about the market. I must have missed a point.

Re:EU actuaally useful? (3, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43819521)

This *is* about the market (and Western investors jumping onto the land/resources grab to expropriate everything of agricultural value). Imperialists coming in to map your resources is like burglars snooping around to case a joint --- "we're just peeping through the windows to help survey the quantity and location of valuables in this house."

Improving agriculture through scientific management of soil resources can be a good thing --- but the good is gained when this knowledge is *disseminated to help the people,* not *concentrated to help the wealthy.* Instead of mapping soils to fill a comprehensive UN almanac, spread resources (simple equipment and knowledge) so that *local communities* can *map their own soil,* and manage/improve their own resources (no need to centralize the information on a continental scale). Investors in London, Berlin, and New York should not be the ones to know soil conditions --- the farmers and communities *living on top of the soil* are the ones who should be empowered to collect and interpret this information.

Re:EU actuaally useful? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 10 months ago | (#43820223)

This *is* about the market (and Western investors jumping onto the land/resources grab to expropriate everything of agricultural value). Imperialists coming in to map your resources is like burglars snooping around to case a joint --- "we're just peeping through the windows to help survey the quantity and location of valuables in this house."

Here I find EU as I know it: pure evil. I wonder how long before we people of Europe manage to get rid of it.

Re:EU actuaally useful? (2)

Teun (17872) | about 10 months ago | (#43820363)

I really wonder where you see this EU led land-grab.

This map and it's resources are publicly available, any one can use it, to start with the local governments of Africa.

Re:EU actuaally useful? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 months ago | (#43821029)

This map and it's resources are publicly available, any one can use it, to start with the local governments of Africa.

Most of those are more worried about continuing to exist, and wondering if they or the warlords have more AK-47s.

Re:EU actuaally useful? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#43824839)

It disturbs me a bit to see EU associated to something actually useful to mankind. Usually it only cares about the market. I must have missed a point.

Someone moderated that "troll". I would be interested if that person could explain to me why (by private message if you do not want to undo your moderation). Note that I wrote EU [wikipedia.org] , which I do not confuse with council of Europe [wikipedia.org] or with multilateral projects between european countries, such as the ESA.

The only reason You would map someone else's soil. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43819233)

The only reason You would map someone else's soil is to decide if it's worth invading them to take it away.

The reason they mapped the soil now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43819353)

Obviousely it's for oil extraction and for extracting more diamonds with black slaves IE blood diamonds. It's not for food no matter how much someone says it is.

Why not "A team of african EXPERTS"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43820045)

Can't those sub-70 IQ Africans even map their OWN soil?

Of course, they get 'whitey' to do it for them. What a pathetic bunch of parasites they are.

African soil is racist ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43820755)

African soil produces amazing amounts of high quality produce when it's cultivated by white farmers, but once it's taken over by blacks who sit around and stare at the slowly rusting farm equipment all day it stubbonly refuses to produce anything.

This then leads to the countries sitting on it to go from efficient food producers and vibrant economies to third world crapholes full of starving blacks in less than a generation.

African soil is racist!!

The future of Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43821929)

This is not a new idea. Many countries in Africa have a long history of soil classification. The french colonists, for example, produced detailed maps that even displayed individual trees! For many years, crop dusters in West Africa also used these for precise navigation.

These maps were not simply topological. For example, the Fruit Research Institute in Kindia, Guinea (i'IRF) did extensive soil analysis that was often incorporated into these maps. In West Africa much of the impetus for this work was tied to its utility in both agriculture and mining.

In North Africa much of the analytical work was done to promote soil reclamation, Salinity measurements and hardpan classification were among some of the many tests conducted at the Medjerta Valley Reclamation Office (OMVVM) in Tunisia.

What would be new and exciting is collecting this information in a digital format that can be easily disseminated, updated and used for teaching and collaboration. Africa has enormous potential, but unless Africans see themselves as a part of a very large community, progress will be slow a best.

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