Developing the Pacific Soils Portal to enable sustainable soil management in the farming systems of the region
Soil mapping in the Pacific has significant challenges. In particular, islands are often remote, populations are small, financial resources and expertise very limited, and through emigration of highly trained people institutional strengthening is often short-lived, requiring rebuilding to leverage past development work.
While land areas are often small and aid resourcing has been available to generate valuable and often large scale soil mapping and soil knowledge, it is clear that in-country capacity to use and understand that information can be a limiting factor. Much of this legacy soils mapping and soils data is still relevant but it is generally hard to access and under-utilised. As a result land management decisions are not always as well informed as they could be.
The Pacific Soils Portal is a regional effort to make information, knowledge and advice relating to soils more readily available to a wide variety of soil and land users. This research launched the Pacific Soils Portal by:
- Establishing Pacific Soils Portal governance and management.
- Capturing system requirements and capability of participating Pacific Island Countries and Territories.
- Developing the web-interface and supporting information and communications technology infrastructure to deliver the agreed web-services via the Pacific Soils Portal.
- Researching extension to farmers, extension, and policy makers.
- Data capture and harmonisation of existing soil and land resource information for the Pacific Soils Portal.
- Pacific Soils Portal web development and host setup.
- Engaging in user testing and feedback to assess the efficacy of information products supplied via the Pacific Soils Portal, final testing and launch.
- Communication and extension of the Pacific Soils Portal.
- The project team launched the Pacific Soils Portal, which can be accessed below. The project team successfully achieved the major technical goals to collate, and make available, via an on-line web portal useable by any device (e.g. computer, tablet or smartphone), the best available soils knowledge for five Pacific Island Countries.
- A Portal Governance Group was established. This group initially met in person at the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services, however, later the group met virtually and successfully agreed on Terms of Reference, data sharing agreements and hosting options via online voting. This was the first step in achieving Pacific ownership of the Portal.
- Recent analytics and help queries indicate a slow but steady increase in user engagement with the Pacific Soils Portal. The project team looked to lower the accessibility barriers for people who had not previously been able to find or use this information.
- Team members have further developed technical programming skills, have also gained better understanding and appreciation of use of soils data.
- Pacific Island Country partners developed an appreciation of the technical challenges of online provision of mapped data.
- Pacific Island Country partners were exposed to persona analysis.
- A Tongan project partner overcame challenges to develop a Tongan language homepage for the Pacific Soils Portal.