FG Kick-starts AFSIS Pilot Project To Boost Sustainable Agriculture In Nigeria

The Federal Government has kick-started  the African Soil Information Service (AFSIS) pilot project  in order   to address the lack of quality information and data on soil and agricultural landscape which would help boost sustainable agricultural productivity across the  Nigerian agro- ecologies.

The project which is being funded by  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation builds technology innovations and services to fill one of the major gaps in spatial Information in African soil, that is widely acknowledged to be hampering scientific progress in agri-economic development.

It is for this reason  that Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa initiated AFSIS projects in 5 countries namely Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. Already, many international partners such as Icraf, CiAT are supporting the initiative intended to last 4 years. The Project will take off in Ebonyi and Kebbi State; while the new techniques/ technologies will be used to build capacity through training of staff in Abuja, Kaduna and Ibadan over the next one week.

 The Permanent Secretary of  the Ministry, Dr. Bukar Hassan  during his meeting with members of the  Ministerial Steering Committee on the African Soil Information Service (AFSIS) and  formal launching  of the   AfSIS pilot project in the Ministry today said he was impressed with the work AFSIS is doing to build  technology  innovations and   services to drive the future of  African Agriculture, particularly Nigeria and expressed hope that , the technology would  assist  governments , farmers and relevant stakeholders in Agriculture to pay more attention to soil development in  moving the agricultural sector forward.

 Represented by the Director, Plantation in the Department Of Agriculture, Mr Quadri Olalekan , he declared;   “Our farmers will no longer continue to shoot in the dark , the project is important  and  we will be able     to maximize the duration of the project   and get  the best out of it”.

Earlier the Director ,Lands and Climate Change, Engr. Sunday Edibo has explained that the AfSIS  project  which is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates  Foundation is aimed  at “rapidly expanding the use of   world class information technology and data  science to  ensure   that  Africa’s soil and landscape resources are described, understood     and used   effectively to increase  agricultural   productivity  and lower   the ecological footprints of agriculture as a means  of raising the prosperity of Africa’s communities and nations”.

 He explained further that  the African Soil Information Service project (AfSIS) is in collaboration with the Nigeria Soil Information System (NiSIS) and the Ministry to update   soil and landscape information for Nigeria using modern   measurement and mapping    techniques.

Engineer Edibo said the area of work covered so far include; fairly detailed  soil and fertilizer response survey of the central maize producing area of Nigeria ; training of soil and plant  laboratory   for NiSIS and IITA staff in spectral methods for soil prediction; compilation  and updating of relevant remote sensing data for soil and landscape mapping  and spectral   and spatial prediction model development to generate new  soil maps and landscape information  products.

He stated that the team would commence the training of staff of the ministry  on   soil / crop   standard operating procedures (SOP)    and the information gathered would be used in soil maps and assist farmers in crop production , particularly in supporting  the development of grasses in ranches .

The Chairman of   the AfSIS- NiSIS  Ministerial Steering Committee and a University don in  the Department of Soil Science, Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria ,Prof Ishaku  Amapu  in his presentation said the AfSIS – NiSIS  pilot project on Nutrient  assessment of Nigeria crop lands is starting   with   Kebbi and Ebonyi states  with 582 locations and 208 locations respectively  with focus  on soil development.

Professor Amapu said   the pilot project would among other things  provide   spatially explicit observations, measurements and predictions of nutrients level  and   the information  would be used   for ranches  to provide   grasses needed   for healthy  growth of animals

He appealed to the Federal Government to expedite   action on the complete survey of    the remaining part of the country.

The AfSIS Senior Adviser,World Agro Forestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi , Kenya, Dr. Bruce Scott  remarked that  presently,  the Agriculture sector is not innovative and proactive  for it’s not using the best technology  and science available; stating that “ In human    sector, there has been  tremendous   innovation but not   so in Agriculture, because we have refused  to innovate   in terms of leveraging on new science  and technology”

Dr. Scott who promised that AfSIS would continue to be a good partner,   urged the Federal Government to transform its Agriculture sector to make  it more productive   for farmers and the people of Nigeria.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh   who was worried by dearth of relevant soil information in Nigeria inaugurated a Ministerial Steering Committee on the African Soil Information Service (AFSIS) in the Ministry last year.

Oluwakemi   Ogunmakinwa Mrs.

For: Director Information.

February 12, 2018.

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