The aim is to build an interactive online tool, which will give extension workers and policymakers the information they need to determine how best to restore their "sleeping soils".
Meanwhile, an "aggressive" program of dissemination will ensure that AfSIS is readily available to African farmer associations and extension services, said a spokesman.
The plan is to continually monitor and update the map, with an ongoing soil surveillance service.
"If we are to reduce poverty, feed growing populations and cope with the impact of climate change on agriculture, we require accurate, up-to-date information on the state of Africa's soils," said Nteranya Sanginga, director of CIAT's Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute.
"With accurate soil maps, we find farmers can increase their yields by around 60%, and sometimes double.
Given that agriculture remains the primary contributor to national GDP in the vast majority of African states, and is the sole provider of income for millions of the continent's citizens, (according to the World Bank it accounts for 30% of the continent's GDP and employs 75% of the population), AfSIS has the potential to contribute enormously to poverty reduction, and even the region's economic growth. Among my concerns, however, is that such advances in the agricultural sector will limit the continent's exports primarily to agricultural goods, in turn hindering export diversification and subsequently significant economic growth.
Regardless, the project is indeed a giant leap forward (and the maps quite wonderful and color-coded!) and boasts great potential. I would rest a bit easier, though, if someone devised a map of entrepreneurship opportunities, or hot spots for skills acquisition, for instance.... anyone?