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Project Summary

Start date:
1 November 2022
2 Years
Project Leader:
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of AfSIS is to increase smallholder farmer (SHF) productivity and to promote national and private sector policy changes towards more sustainable agricultural production. The project puts a particular emphasis on soil health and associated geospatial information, achieved through innovative information products and services. 

In addition, the project expects to increase the returns on public investments in agriculture and sustainable agricultural production growth by informing research programmes, governments, businesses, decision makers and development practitioners about opportunities and constraints for increasing agricultural production. Equally important is to achieve this goal whilst sustaining other ecosystem services at geographical scales ranging from individual fields to the entire African continent.

Following an open innovation and co-innovation approach, the technologies and methodologies developed by AfSIS are freely available. Moreover, they are also widely applicable to other regions of the world, which is a potential the project will seek to explore further.


AfSIS objectives reflect its four main work streams:

  • Development of soil and landscape information infrastructure and systems including core databases, protocols, standards, software, IT and data science.
  • Creation of agronomic decision support applications that add value and inform decision making at multiple levels, from national and regional policy formation to farm-level land management with project partners.
  • Institutionalisation, capacity strengthening and learning support for deploying institutional soil and landscape information systems and services.
  • Sustainable business development and communications innovation support.

The main outputs of the project assist national programmes in at least four African countries to transition to modern agricultural research and data collection practices that are expected to result in faster agricultural development. For example, for Ethiopia more than 15,000 soils have been analysed and mapped, resulting in more appropriate fertiliser blends being produced and applied. In Tanzania, more than 10,000 soil samples with crop information have been collected and key crop distributions mapped. Recent activities in Ghana and Nigeria produced similar products for food basket areas, using the same steps and processes. 

Project outputs are also informing national and global policy and initiatives in agriculture that address key environmental threats in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with, for example, soil and landscape monitoring systems that are compliant to international standards. 

AfSIS will also continue to focus on distribution and capacity building for its technologies with governmental and non-governmental organisations in e.g., Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania. Thereby, the project contributes to knowledge distribution, public engagement and awareness, and sustainable resource management, demonstrating the value of modern soil and landscape information services.

afsis logo

Project Leader

Prof. Steve McGrath

Soil and Plant Scientist

Team Members

Dr Stephan Haefele

Systems Agronomist

Dr Cathy Thomas

Geophenomics Scientist


Key organizations involved in the delivery of this project include:

  • Earth Institute at Columbia University (EI) - Markus Walsh; Alex Verlinden; Marc Levy
  • World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) - Keith Shepherd, Bruce Scott
  • Quantitative Engineering Design (QED) - William Wu
  • Ministries of Agriculture of Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania
  • Ethiopia Soil Information Service (EthioSIS)
  • Ghana Soil Information Service (GhaSIS)
  • Nigeria Soil Information Service (NiSIS)
  • Tanzania Soil Information Service (TanSIS) 

Collaborating projects are:

  • Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
  • Africa Soil Health Consortium
  • One Acre Fund
  • N2Africa
  • Taking Maize Agronomy to Scale in Africa (TAMASA)
  • African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) 
  • Banana Management Project (SBPEA)


Near-real-time remote sensing time series and derivatives from e.g. various NASAESA and/or our own UAV-based land cover monitoring products at and on our map portal.

  • Mobile field survey and laboratory data collection toolkits at MobileSurvey.
  • Regularly versioned, soil, plant and agronomic survey and monitoring databases at AfSIS DB.
  • Demand-led soil and plant laboratory spectral diagnostics and analysis services (see Lab analysis services).
  • On-demand, cloud-based soil/plant, landscape and agricultural data analysis, databasing and storage services hosting.
  • Regularly versioned digital soil maps and soil condition monitoring products (e.g. Africa Soil Grids).
  • Location specific cropland area, human settlement and woody vegetation cover predictions (e.g. via GeoSurvey).

AfSIS will also continue to focus on mainstreaming and capacity building of its information technology with governmental and non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania by providing support to:

  • In-country data science and software application training and mentoring national partners in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana.
  • eLearning support and certification for field, laboratory and data analysis staff.
  • Open source software versioning at Github.
  • Diagnostic spectral and spatial prediction competitions e.g. via Kaggle.
  • Improved web mapping, visualization and data download services at our map portal.
  • Improved public engagement and awareness demonstrating the value of modern soil and landscape information services