Ethiopia Completes Mapping its Soil, Eyes Tailor-made Fertilizer Use

ADDIS ABEBA – A new soil fertility map shows Ethiopia’s way outs from uniform fertilizers use to a more effective and tailor-made appliance, claims Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA).

The agency, via its Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS) project, has finished a five-year-long soil survey and managed to draw soil fertility maps.

Ethiosis has to cover 748 Woredas (districts) and 62 confluence points and collect “hundreds of thousands of soil samples” in order to draw the maps.

The agency, which announced the completion of the project on Wednesday, says it has developed 22 different maps with in-depth soil fertility information and recommendations.

The results, its officials said, challenged the long-standing belief that DAP and Urea fertilizers should exclusively and uniformly be used by farmers across the country, regardless of the type of crop type, soil types, and agroecology.

Instead, it has demonstrated that tailored fertilizer-type applications can replenish the fertility of a variety of soils found to be deficient in several essential nutrients, according to ATA.

‘Modernizes Farms’

Khalid Bomba, CEO of ATA, said, with the exception of Afar and Somali regional states, the maps, and fertilizer recommendations have already been developed and handed over to the respective offices.

The soil fertility status maps and recommendations for Afar and Somali regions are still under production.

Khalid also said all the information will be accessible for researchers and other potential users in one place, once it is handed over the whole project to the ministry of agriculture and stored in one portal.

Prior to this national survey, EthioSIS project leaders say information about Ethiopian soil has been in short supply.

When found, they did not usually give the full picture, said Tegbaru Belete, leader the 10-million-USD project.

Tegbaru said the availability of the central soil mapping database will prevent duplication of effort by researchers, but “most importantly help promote digital and modern agriculture” – a sector that supports 80% of Ethiopians livelihood.

The whole project will also lead to produce tailored fertilizers to address the nutrient deficiencies in Ethiopian agricultural soils, he added.

‘Already in demand’

With the support of the recommendations of the soil fertility survey, five farmers’ cooperative unions (FCU)-owned facilities are now producing blended fertilizers, according to ATA.

These unions are Becho-Woliso and Gibe-Dedesa FCUs in Oromia, Merkeb FCU in Amhara, Enderta FCU in Tigray, and Melke-Silte FCU in SNNP.

They are already leveraging the data generated to identify and produce customized blended fertilizers within Ethiopia, Tegbaru said.

The government said there is far from the need that could be created in the country.

The existing fertilizer blending plants operating have not yet been sufficient to address all customized needs of the entire country, said Kaba Orgessa, state minister of Agriculture.

Kaba, however, affirmed the ministry’s commitment saying it will support the use of the survey’s outcome.

By Sisay Sahlu