THE Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is working with the government of Lesotho to establish the Lesotho Soils Information System (LESIS) as part of efforts to achieve sustainable food production in the country.
The LESIS is aimed at creating a data base on the country’s soil types in an appropriate and web-based information system that is easily accessible to different users including farmers.
FAO Programmes Assistant, Mokitinyane Nthimo, this week told the Lesotho Times that the initiative was borne out of the realisation that decision making in agriculture relies on accurate soil data in order to guide sustainable management of soils.
“Currently soil information in Lesotho is patchy and scattered across different institutions and entities and the initiative will consolidate all those pieces into one database and help fill in the existing data gaps through collection and analysis of more primary data,” Mr Nthimo said.
He said FAO would provide technical support in the form of training for officials in government institutions, academia and farming communities on digital soil mapping techniques, the production of soil property maps, and other Geographical Information System layers.
“Training constitutes a small part of the technical support. FAO will also provide support in terms of procurement and installation of the necessary infrastructure such as computers, servers, laboratory equipment and supplies for the establishment of the web-based information system, support for field surveys and laboratory analysis and the associated training.”
Mr Nthimo said the project is therefore expected to enhance the technical capacities of the key institutions for managing soil information systems in Lesotho.
FAO said in a recent statement that they would train personnel from the different ministries of Agriculture; Mining; Forestry, the Lesotho Meteorological Services and the National University of Lesotho.
The training would capacitate them to identify threats and pressures on soil, develop and implement appropriate measures for combating soil degradation and mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
It would also enable them to improve soil management at farm level by improving water and fertiliser by designing appropriate irrigation systems.
“The trainees were selected from different technical departments that deal with soils and Geographic Information Systems. They form an important part of Lesotho soil science community and will be instrumental in maintaining and updating the information system,” Mr Nthimo explained.
He said their skills in the area of digital soil mapping and other related processes would be greatly improved, adding, it should however, be understood that the greatest beneficiation goes to the decision makers that require soil information to make informed investment decisions relating to agriculture and sustainable land management.
“The country’s soils are under severe pressure as a result of natural conditions and human activities, triggering soil erosion, land degradation and depletion of the soil organic matter.”
He said there is limited soil data in Lesotho and to date, the country has no national soil information system to guide evidence based decision making on various applications underpinning key policy requirements.
“The establishment of this information system will go a long way in supporting Lesotho’s efforts towards sustainable management of the land and water resources,” he said.