Scaling Climate-Smart Agriculture in Ethiopia, from the Ground Up

Story Highlights

  • EthioSIS, Ethiopia’s catalogue of national soil data, uses satellite technology and extensive soil sampling to produce high resolution soil maps for each region.
  • The project provides farmers with localized, actionable data for making climate-smart farming decisions that boost productivity, improve resilience and also leave a lower environmental footprint.
  • Access to soil information could be transformative for Ethiopia’s millions of farmers, and ultimately help achieve the country’s goal of becoming a green economy by 2025.

Fikadu Garomessa’s verdant maize and teff farm—which stretches across the slopes of Liben Gaammo Village, Chelia woreda— makes for a postcard worthy view.  But the long-time farmer isn’t interested in soaking in the vista. Instead, he kneels low to the ground and digs his hands into the earth. Fikadu is interested in soil—both in knowing more about it, and in sharing what he’s learned so far.

He’s not alone.

Since 2012, soil researchers have fanned out across Ethiopia’s countryside to collect data on soil types, soil fertility and agro-ecological conditions. Their findings are being added to the Ethiopian Soil Information System or EthioSIS, a comprehensive catalogue of national soil data. EthioSIS which is funded by the World Bank-supported Agriculture Growth Program, uses satellite technology and extensive soil sampling to produce high resolution soil maps for each region. To date, 438 districts or woredas—approximately 63% of the country’s agricultural woredas—have been mapped, including in the Amhara and Oromia regions.

Actionable data for climate-smart agriculture

For decades, Ethiopia’s farmers have relied on general recommendations regarding fertilizers and farming practices that had little regard for local conditions. Harvest shortfalls, excessive and inappropriate use of chemical fertilizers limited to urea and DAP, and fertilizer runoff occurred as a result.

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