A Process Towards Strengthening National Soil Information Services

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Worldwide, many initiatives aim to organise and develop new and existing soil information, often by developing new soil information systems (SIS) in a range of countries, organisations and institutes. The resulting (national) SISs aim to make existing and new soil data/information available to potential users, often through an online portal, service or website. This process is often assisted by the development of innovative digital soil mapping techniques. While many SISs are successful, as they serve a dedicated or wide user group and are maintained and updated regularly, other SISs do not persist long after termination of a project. Often, this is because sustained funding for maintenance was not foreseen or the SIS did not adequately address the needs of the user community in type and format of data and information.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been instrumental in the development of several national SISs and tools for innovative digital soil mapping in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. Yet, the impact and current use of these SISs has not been investigated. Therefore, the Foundation asked CABI to evaluate the effects of earlier interventions and to investigate how to adjust the interventions to create more impact and better fulfil in-country demand. This includes considering capacity (people and process) to handle the introduced technologies, the conditions that should be in place and defining which choices should be made to make the implementation of a SIS more impactful and sustainable.

CABI, the project lead, is assisted by ISRIC and UC Davis on respectively the technical options for a SIS and its demands and advantages, and the evaluation of process, people and environment factors that contribute to a successful SIS implementation intervention.


ISRIC will:

  • Categorise the different steps towards a SIS
  • Provide a practical and comprehensive overview of methods, standards, tools, workflows available for each step in the soil data workflow (see Figure) underpinning a soil information system
  • Help define main characteristics of a SIS and important aspects to take into account when making choices for technical options
  • Provide user stories and best practice examples of possible technical solutions
  • Prepare a non-technical report on the above.


Definition and short, practical description of methods, standards, tools, workflows per step in the Soil Data Workflow. This includes considering simple as well as technically more advanced options to allow customisation to in-country needs.

Listing of SIS characteristics and discuss these with CABI and UC Davis.


Review of technological options for each step in the Soil Data Workflow, both in technical and easy to read English.


CABI , UC Davis and ISRIC.


CABI, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.