The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with support from the Canadian government through the Modernization of Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) programme, are on track developing multi-purpose applications that bring agriculture, research, science and technology closer to the end-user.
Agriculture is the main stay of Ghana’s economy, engaging about 52% of the labour force; 29% in services and 19% in industry. Agriculture also contributes to 54% of Ghana’s GDP, and accounts for over 40% of export earnings, while at the same time providing over 90% of the food needs of the country. (Source FAO-Ghana)
The soil holds the future for humanity. Soil information is therefore critical to the transformation of agriculture and other industries like building/real estate, horticulture, roads construction and the allocation of land for development. This sentiment is re-echoed succinctly in this heading of a book “Soil: The Life Supporting Skin of the Earth”. (KV Ragnarsdóttir 2015).
Soil information is fundamental to any successful farming activity, crop fertilization, performance of new crop varieties, pasture development, afforestation, food security and improved nutrition. Soil information in Ghana was stored on analogue maps which were open to the vagaries of rodents chewing the maps, and the need to have large and secure rooms for storage. Information was also not easily accessible with End-users having to be physically present in order to access them.
It is therefore opportune that the development of CSIR-Soil Research Institute’s web-based application platform has come at the right time. They have converted all their analogue maps into digital formats for easier storage and retrieval. A click to the link of the website (Soil Maps/Suitability Maps) displays an interactive map of Ghana. The platform hosts information on the soil resources of Ghana online to enhance soil data accessibility, availability and acquisition in the country. The online platform contains digitized soil maps of specific locations, soil characteristics and appropriate nutrient/mineral requirements for optimum growth and yields for key crops in each agro-ecological zone of Ghana. It also provides information on soil nutrient availability, soil physical properties and fertility limitations, as well as soil suitability for selected crops. Soil management recommendations, strategies and limitations, are also included.
A click on the Soil Crop Suitability Maps for instance, displays the types of crops (e.g. shea-nut, pineapple, maize, cocoa, cassava …) and the best regions or districts that one can get the best yields. For instance, Cassava is best grown in the Western North and Ahafo regions. https://www.csirsoilinfo.org/
This platform is also ideal for industry players’ other than agriculture. Real estate developers should know the types of soil they plan to build on. For instance, particularly the physical condition. Is it clay or water logged? In either case, the foundations of the buildings have to be treated and sometimes reinforced to prevent cracks from developing or ground water from rising up the walls which is a stressful phenomenon End-users are facing after the purchase of their homes.
Road construction is another industry that would benefit from the App as it displays at the click of a button the types of soils across the country before they even venture to the site for the necessary soil tests to be performed. Last but not the least, Lands Commission will find this App useful as it provides them with a one-stop shop information that can be shared with investors and other land users who want to know about soil in Ghana and what it can do for them.
By Donald Gwira
The Writer is a Communications Specialist