Soils are an important component not only in agricultural value chains, but also in other development sectors such as construction, mining, etc. Accurate information on soils is therefore a key factor in decision-making and national development. Soil maps provide abstract information about soils and are used as a tool to guide policy and decision-making.
Uganda’s first soils’ map at scale of 1:250,000 was developed in the late 1950s. Sixty years down the road, this is still the most detailed nation-wide map of the soils of Uganda. For this reason, there is a need to review its validity as a basis for land management decision-making. In addition, the naming of the soil units used in the current map is based on local place names which makes cross referencing difficult. Furthermore, the 1:250,000 scale is still too course for farm level applications and its dissemination among stakeholders is still very low. All these are key challenges that needed to be addressed.
As a response to the above challenges, the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Project under the auspices of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) took on the task of updating the existing soil map of Uganda at a more detailed scale of 1:50,000, using the standard World Reference Base (WRB) soil classification guidelines. So far, six of the 17 main soil mapping sheets of scale 1:250,000 (Masaka, Kampala, Kabale, Fortportal, Mbarara, and Jinja) have been surveyed. The surveyed areas consist of approximately 123 smaller (1:50,000 scale sheets), all below 1o latitude, representing approximately 40% of the entire country. Final soil maps for the Masaka sheet have been produced while for the other 5 sheets, the maps are under processing.
To improve dissemination, the project has devised a number of strategies to increase access to soils information. These include dissemination workshops, print media (brochures, posters, and a Uganda Soils Book) and electronic media (an online soils information system). Some of these products, namely the “UGANDA SOILS BOOK” and the “Uganda Soils Information System” accessible at www.slm.go.ug are already being developed.
While NARO coordinates the soil mapping exercise, other key institutions involved are Makerere University; Busitema University; Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries (MAAIF); and the Private Sector.