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Earth Science

African Soil Mapped For the Very First Time 56

Posted by timothy
from the please-don't-call-it-dirt dept.
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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African Soil Mapped For the Very First Time

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  • The consequence (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Taco Cowboy (5327)

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

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by haulbag (1160391)
      Or it could cause regional or tribal wars with people trying to get the best land for themselves.
      • Re:The consequence (Score:5, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @04:49AM (#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.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          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.

        • 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 corporati
          • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by memnock (466995) on Friday May 24, 2013 @08:55PM (#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.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        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.

      • by Teun (17872)
        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 g

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          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...

          • by Teun (17872)
            We seem to live in different worlds.
            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              We seem to live in different worlds.

              In mine, history is worth studying.

              • by Teun (17872)
                Then do it.

                But at the same time don't forget the present and Africa is not exactly the place with leaking reactors.

    • by howardd21 (1001567) on Friday May 24, 2013 @09:03PM (#43818409) Homepage
      I love virgin forests, it gives me wood
      • by Anonymous Coward

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

    • by MacDork (560499)

      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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2013 @08:11PM (#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

  • by tippe (1136385) on Friday May 24, 2013 @08:11PM (#43818091)

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

    • 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? (Score:1, Insightful)

    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.
  • 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.
    • by femtobyte (710429) on Saturday May 25, 2013 @01:25AM (#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.

      • by manu0601 (2221348)

        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.

      • by Teun (17872)
        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.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          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.

    • by manu0601 (2221348)

      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.

  • All the soil in Africa is made up of diamonds and zebra crap. Mostly diamonds.

  • by Anonymous Coward

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

You have a tendency to feel you are superior to most computers.

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