Five tonnes of animal life can live in one hectare of soil.

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The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) is the global union of soil scientists. The objectives of the IUSS are to promote all branches of soil science, and to support all soil scientists across the world in the pursuit of their activities. This website provides information for IUSS members and those interested in soil science.

4TH International Conference of ASSS

Ghana, January 2007

The 4th African Soil Science Society International Conference which was hosted by the Soil Science Society of Ghana in partnership with other institutions such as the FAO and IUSS among others. The event took place from 7th to 13th January, 2007 at GIMPA International Conference Centre in Accra. The theme of the Conference was Impacts of climate change, global trade, urbanization and biotechnology on land use in Africa. Over 150 participants from national, international and advanced agricultural research centres, Universities and NGOs in Africa, America, Europe and Asia attended the event.

The opening ceremony took place under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Ghana, ably represented by the Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Honourable Papa Owusu Ankomah, assisted by the Honourable Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, and a representative for the Minister of Food and Agriculture. During the 6-days conference, over 100 scientific Oral papers and posters were presented under the following five sub-themes: (i) Dynamics of land use, Local market; (ii) Global trade and land use patterns; (iii) Land management and biodiversity; (v) Land use changes in urban and peri-urban agriculture. A mid-conference technical and social visit to the Central Region of Ghana was undertaken on Thursday 11th January 2007, while a business meeting of the African Soil Science Society took place on Friday, 12th January 2007. Among other important outputs of this conference, the participants have highlighted the fact that:

1-New challenges in Soil Science have to deal with the achievement of Food Security in Africa as enunciated in: the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the World Food Summits (1996, 2001), UN reports and Africa Fertilizer Summit (Abuja, June 2006) and Resolutions of African Heads of State and governments at the Summit on Food Security in Africa (December 2006).

2-Only a few countries in Africa have functional land use policy and promote the use of land use planning as a basis for rational agricultural production.

Based on the above observations, the participants have recommended the following:

1-The need for an active involvement of national Soil Science Societies in the implementation of the recommendations from the Africa Fertilizer and Food Security Summits held in 2006;

2-African Soil Scientists should incorporate some contemporary strategies such as GIS, remote sensing and precision agriculture into their activities to boost soil science research and agriculture production in Africa;

3-African soil scientists should come up with very well defined soil fertility policy papers to guide sector-based development;

4-The institutional linkage between National Soil Science Societies and Governments should be strengthened; and a closer relationship with international bodies such as The African Union (AU), IUSS, FAO, UNESCO, CGIAR Centres and others, should be reinforced;

New Executive Committee Members were elected to reactivate the ASSS, liaise with IUSS Executive Bureau and organize:

i. In collaboration with other institutions, a workshop on the state of art of Conservation Agriculture and the way forward in Africa (October – September 2007);
ii. A technical meeting in early 2008 in Mauritius;
iii. The 5th ASSS International conference in 2009 in Cameroon;

The New Elected Executive Committee of the ASSS is constituted as follows:










Cameroon or



Burkina Faso or













Conference group photo taken in front of GIMPA International Conference Centre, Accra, Ghana

Conference group photo taken in front of GIMPA International Conference Centre, Accra, Ghana

Another report of this meeting

Soil Science started its program of scientific conferences in 2007 from January 7 to 13 in Accra, Ghana. The event of 4th International Congress of Soil Science Society of Africa was finally planned and terminated by Lalljee, Kilsara, Kome and Dala Fall on the 18th World Congress of Soil Science 2006 in Philadelphia, USA, and executed and chaired by Asiamah, Ghana. After a long time African Soil Scientist south of the Sahel did met. Participants from 16 African countries and 4 others took part. About 120 colleagues were welcomed in Accra. 137 papers for oral presentation and posters were listed.

First of all it was good news that there are already strong national soil science societies in some countries of Africa. For Nigeria about 600 members have been listed, East Africa (Kenia, Tansania, Uganda) about 800 and Ghana about 50. One can assume that in Africa at least 2000 soil scientist are active. Thus for the international community of soil scientists this is very encouraging.

One main problem of soils of Africa was all the time visible at the sky. All days the sun was hidden by dust from soils of the Shahel. The Conference theme was Impact of climate change, global trade, urbanization and biotechnology on land use in Africa. The importance for African countries was visible and lined out by the keynote address of the President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. J. A. Kufour which was given by the Minister of Education Science, and Sports and opening speeches of three Ministers of the government of Ghana.

The presentations did bring very clear the problems of African soils and soil resources use on the point. Opposite to the excessive use of fertilizer in many European countries the application of fertilizer in Africa is nearly zero. Beside, rice is grown by dry farming. Both factors impacts negatively on crop growth leading to low yields. Farmer’s income and life can only be secured by increasing the area used for farming. It was good demonstrated how the rain forest disappeared and a uniform landscape was established. Change to irrigated rice farming did increase yield level to three to four fold. The danger is the nutrient mining that means soil nutrients will be soon exhausted. Economic conditions must develop such that farmers can buy and apply fertilizers. There is some hope that a strong increasing request of rice and maize on the global world market will provide also African farmers the financial facilities to use soils in a better way.

A bigger complex of presentations was devoted to the role of shrubs in semi-arid areas for soil use by agriculture. This was a very interesting demonstration of how vegetation resources can contribute to improvement of soil properties, carbon storage, water storage and to avoid soil degradation.

There are already strong groups working on soils of urban, industrial and mining areas. One of the big social tasks is the availability of soils for urban agriculture in cities. Pollution problems from ore mining and processing can be locally a big problem. Oil mining is another field about which reports on soils were presented. The fast extension of residential areas in costal and flood plains and sealing causes flood problems also in Africa.

There were many excellent contributions on the 4th Conference of Soil Science Society of Africa. They showed that the soil themes of the 21st century were well adopted and understood by our African colleagues. One of their problems is the low availability and particular maintenance of research equipment. They are still too much dependent from equipment use facilities outside their countries.

The very good managed and one day excursion was to South-West Ghana. It covered several thematic of soils, natural and human history of Ghana. At Okyereko a profile of an irrigated rice field was visited and discussed. The second profile was visited at the Kakum forest which is one of the last small residues of the African rain forest. The afternoon offered a view into the Kakum rain forest by walking through the canopy in some 40 m height on rope bridges. The end was a visit of Cape Town castle from where slaves were shipped.

During the conference was as new President of soil science society of Africa elected. We can congratulate Dr. R.D. Asiamah to this position and success. The 5th Conference of Soil Science Society of Africa will be in Cameroon in 2009.

The conference was held in the conference centre of GIMPA near the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra. The hard work of organizing the conference was done by Asiamah and many colleagues in Ghana, and his co-workers, in particular by Enoch Boateng. For the big success of the conference we have to thank them all.

Wolfgang Burghardt

Chair of IUSS Division 3