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International Programs News & Views Volume 25

Aug. 2001



In 1999, President Clinton and Secretary of Agriculture Glickman met with Government of Nigeria officials to identify priority areas for agricultural assistance. Both nations feel that strong agricultural programs are the foundation of a healthy economy.Among the areas needing immediate attention was improved soils information.


From 1981 to 1984, NRCS provided leadership to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in developing a Soil Survey of Nigeria. The Survey was completed and published in 1990. Development of the Survey had an immediate beneficial effect as a teaching tool and continues to be of major value to Nigerian soil scientists, users of soil survey data, and students of soil science throughout the world. Now, over 15 years later, USAID has requested NRCS' assistance in increasing the Nigerian soil scientists' knowledge of basic resources and land use planning information available from the Survey.

Current Activities

In September 2000 and again in February 2001, I participated on teams from several USDA agencies who traveled to Nigeria to meet with counterparts to evaluate agriculture and land use in Nigeria. Soil Scientist Edward Campbell, Fort Worth, Texas, who worked on the initial USAID-funded Soil Survey, joined the second team. 

The teams explored ways in which Nigeria would be able to develop an agriculture program that ensures an adequate and sustainable food supply and sustainability through improved land use practices. We spent time with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture's Department of Agriculture and Land Resources to determine types of assistance USDA is capable of providing. 

We also met with a variety of stakeholders including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, and a private consulting firm named Afri-Projects Consortium.  We learned that, (1) there is a $2 million item in the 2001 Nigerian budget for a National Soil Fertility Initiative; (2) the World Bank is involved in a Micro Watershed and Envirotechnical Management Program; and (3) a good deal of work has already been completed from Petroleum Trust Fund dollars including irrigation and drainage development, rehabilitation of livestock facilities and a fisheries development program. 

Representatives from each of the 36 state governments including Governors, Deputy Governors, and Permanent Secretaries also met with the U.S. teams expressing the needs of their individual states. Other federal officials the team met with included the Honorable Minister of Trade and Commerce and the President's Food Security Advisor. 

We traveled to a village near Lokoja in Kogi State to a United Nations Development Program project.  Roads leading to the village are of very poor quality, which makes it difficult to market agricultural products.  Several of us traveled to Kaduna State to a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) facility and a soil-testing laboratory.  The GIS lab is fully functional and there is a staff there making thematic maps.  

The Soil Survey of Nigeria has been digitized and the potential for many land use maps exists. The maps could be used for broad land use planning. More branches of the federal government need to be informed of the capabilities of this facility. Aerial photographic imagery used is at a scale of 1:250,000 so one of the most pressing Nigerian needs is high-resolution aerial photography.

The soil-testing laboratory appears to be about 75 percent equipped.  I met with the staff but no soil analysis was being conducted.  In order to make the lab functional, about $35,000 worth of equipment is needed as well as a government program subsidizing soil fertility studies.

I traveled with Ministry counterparts to the Southeastern States of Enugu and Anambra to observe severe soil erosion problems. I saw washed out roads, canyons several hundred feet deep caused by recent accelerated gully erosion, areas of recent landslides, failed engineering structures, and very poor water quality.


The Soil Survey has been well distributed to the point that supplies are running low and a reprint is needed. Many states utilize the Survey but several states were not aware that it even existed.  The Permanent Secretary of Agriculture in Ekiti State complained that the Survey is too broad at its current scale and a more detailed one is needed. The Survey is loaded with soil pedon descriptions and accompanying laboratory data.  However, very little of this data has been converted to land use interpretations.  Map unit descriptions are very brief and provide little land use guidance.

The most obvious user of the Survey information should be the agricultural development projects of each state.  They provide the most direct link to the individual farmers and landowners.

I addressed the issues of soil fertility testing, a pilot project for a more detailed soil survey, soil conservation and soil erosion, and providing technical training to Nigerian scientists.


In order for Nigeria to develop a successful and meaningful soil survey program, stronger cooperation among stakeholders is needed.  The first step in achieving this is the formation of a national committee on soil survey similar to the National Cooperative Soil Survey in the United States.  The committee should consist of the following entities:

·         Federal Department of Agricultural Land Resources (lead agency).

·         Universities with programs in Soil Science and Agronomy.

·         Research Institutions such as International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Institute for Agricultural Research and Training, and Institute for Agricultural Research.

·         State Agricultural Development Project Officers.

·         Extension Service.

The initial function of the committee would be to:

·         Determine the roles of each agency.

·         Determine the funding structure for the soil survey program.

·         Identify training needs.

·         Identify equipment needs.

·         Identify additional soil survey priority areas.

There is a great deal of knowledge about soil survey in Nigeria.  However, there is very little practical experience.  In order to gain this 'hands on' experience, it is recommended that Nigeria send several technical experts to the U.S. for training and experience where they would actually be assisting in the production of soil surveys.  

Upon completion of the training, Nigerian scientists would be ready to begin a pilot detailed soil survey project in Anambra State.   This pilot project should serve as a training ground where all technical staff in Nigeria receive training in development and application of soil survey information.  It is estimated that a pilot project would take approximately six months to complete fieldwork, data collection, and laboratory analysis and an additional six months to develop interpretations and prepare a report. 

Upon completion of the initial pilot project, the Nigeria soil survey program would be fully functional and would be able to initiate projects throughout the country. 

Author: Michael T. Sucik, State Soil Scientist, Des Moines, Iowa

Editor:  Gail C. Roane (retired), International Programs Division