Like many of us around the world impacted by COVID-19, the LandPKS team is adapting to our new circumstances of working and learning from home. In an effort to make a small contribution to assist those looking for at-home resources for the whole family, LandPKS is starting a video series for learners of all ages. In the video series, you can discover how to use LandPKS to better understand the land around where you live, keep records, and monitor changes in soil health and vegetation.
We hope these videos can help support distance learning for students of all ages, families, and teachers during this time. The video series will encourage exploration and hands-on learning with the LandPKS mobile app. Just like the LandPKS app, the videos are designed to be used anywhere in the world.
The first video in the series explains why soils are important and how to use LandPKS to identify your soil texture. The video also demonstrates how to find out what types of soil are near your location or a location anywhere in the world. You can watch the video on the LandPKS YouTube Channel.
Guest Post by Ryan Pemberton, Science Education Program Leader at Asombro Institute for Science Education
Asombro Institute for Science Education is a non-profit organization in New Mexico dedicated to increasing natural science literacy through engaging, place-based education. Asombro designed an engaging, three-lesson education module about land potential to prepare students to become informed decision-makers.
The ultimate goal of educators is to prepare today’s youth to be the citizens and leaders of tomorrow. According to climate scientists, tomorrow will be fraught with uncertainty. We are constantly bombarded with the message of uncertainty in weather patterns, access to food and water, and the health effects of these changes. So what are we as educators supposed to do? The same thing we do every day: give our future leaders the tools to navigate this uncertainty.
As a way to help educators give students the skills to succeed in this environment, Asombro Institute for Science Education partnered with LandPKS to develop a three-lesson module on sustainable land management that meets Next Generation Science Standards. This free, online lesson plan is ased on the LandPKS mobile app that guides users to access and collect climate, soils, and topography data of the land they are working with to better understand the potential of that area. By understanding land potential, landowners or managers can make decisions to be more degradation resistant and resilient, and to to promote sustainable agricultural production, biodiversity conservation, and other community objectives.
For most of the past year, with help from the LandPKS team, I have been working to develop this three-part education module to accompany the LandPKS mobile app for 5th – 8th grade students to teach them the basics of land potential indicators, enable them to collect data using the app in their school yard, and apply their new knowledge to make land management decisions.
In the first part of this module, students literally get their hands dirty while working through activities to help them understand land potential indicators including slope and soil texture. These and other indicators can help determine how a plot of land should be used (i.e. agriculture, grazing, or recreational purposes). In the second part of the module, students collect data outside on two plots in their schoolyard or other suitable area. Finally, in the third part of the lesson, students get to do one of their favorite things: use phones during class! In this lesson, students enter data into the app to determine the land’s sustainable potential using the Land Capability Classification (LCC) results.
The LCC system was created in the U.S. but is used globally to classify land into different categories describing how the land could best be used and highlights concerning limitations (i.e. erosion, excess wetness, stoniness, etc.). Once students know what LCC is and what it can tell them, they use critical thinking skills to decide if their schoolyard is being used for its best potential or not, and come up with possible alternative uses.
This module has a lot of great aspects: it’s hands-on, students get to go outside, it is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, and there are opportunities for them to be creative and express their opinions. My favorite part of this module is how well it applies to the real world. Students learn about a tool, get to use that tool, then they get to apply their knowledge and the data they collected to design a solution for their community and environment, just like they will have to do when they are the leaders.
On February 18, join the LandPKS Working Group at the Society for Range Management in Denver (12:15-1:30pm in Governors Square 17). You can also stop by LandPKS posters Monday and Tuesday evenings, or Ignite sessions on Tuesday 1:30-3:30pm (“Open Source Range”) or Wednesday 10-noon (“Shared Monitoring, Shared Stewardship”).
Over the past several months, our LandPKS Tanzania Country Coordinator Elifadhili Daniel has been working hard in partnership with the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) to get the word out about LandPKS as a tool for land-use planning and agricultural extension.
For Tanzanian land-use planners, LandPKS has become a valuable decision-making tool. LandPKS is being used by the National Land Use Planning Commission (NLUPC) and the USAID Land Tenure Assistance Project to carry out soil assessments. Since its introduction, the NLUPC has been using the LandPKS Land Capability Classification (LCC) tool to collect soil characteristics data. These data are used to assist in decision making on sustainable land use planning and management in NLUPC project areas. LandPKS has also informed village level land use plans and helped villages formalize land tenure through the Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy.
Professionals in the agriculture sector in Tanzania have also found how LandPKS can be used as an information resource for agricultural extension. Since October 2018, Daniel has trained over 1,800 individuals including students at agricultural colleges, researchers at the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and the Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA), nonprofit organizations, and agricultural extension officers in 22 regions across Tanzania. After trainings, agriculture professionals expressed how LandPKS can improve their ability to provide farmers with more accurate recommendations.
Christian Msipolosi-Songea, a District Agricultural and Irrigation Cooperative Officer in the Ruvuma region noted that “the most intriguing feature about this technology is its ability to provide site-specific information on climate and soil characteristics which will enable us to provide accurate advice to our farmers for decision making on choice of crop varieties, use of inputs like agrochemicals and seed types, and how to [help] cope with challenges of our changing environment’’.
Agriculture professionals also pointed out that an increasing number of families have access to smartphones which opens the possibility for extension agents to teach farmers to use LandPKS. LandPKS is available in Swahili, making it possible for farmers to use the app in their own language. Daniel’s trainings have also prepared extension agents to train other agriculture professionals and farmers to use LandPKS. Thanks to ICRAF and Daniel’s efforts for helping us realize our vision of global access to sustainable land management knowledge.
LandPKS celebrated the launch of the OpenTEAM collaboration over the past few weeks.
OpenTEAM, or Open Technology Ecosystem for Agriculture Management, is a partnership founded by the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment, Stonyfield Organic, USDA’s LandPKS project, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).
OpenTEAM aims to increase the ability for farmers to easily move across tools and better
transfer and share information. LandPKS participated in the opening working group meeting held in Denver in late September. At the meeting, participating OpenTEAM members discussed strategic plans and began identifying concrete ways to increase compatibility and share information across tools.
The following week, OpenTEAM organized a ceremonial launch at the Wolfe’s Neck Center in Maine. LandPKS demoed our app alongside all of the OpenTEAM partners. LandPKS looks forward to collaborating with the OpenTEAM partners to increase access to knowledge for
sustainable land management.
In the month of August, our Ethiopia Local Coordinator Adane Buni organized a series of
trainings and pilot tests with the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Land Administration and Use Directorate.
The training series included a Training of Trainers for the Ethiopian Rural Land Administration and Use Experts. The training was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and included both classroom presentations and field demonstrations of the app. In total, 227 agricultural officers, researchers and students were trained in using the LandPKS app.
During the pilot testing across several regions of Ethiopia, land biophysical data were collected using the LandPKS app and conventional Ethiopian Rural Land Use Planning methods to compare the approaches as inputs for local level participatory land use planning. The pilot tests showed that the LandPKS and conventional land use planning approaches produced comparable results. It was also determined that the LandPKS mobile app required less expertise and time for data analysis and report preparation. As a result, the Land Administration and Use Directorate has begun planning for the extension of the app out to its land use planning experts. Regional Experts in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) have already begun training local level rural land use planners to use LandPKS to collect biophysical data for land use planning purposes.
This month, LandPKS welcomes Meghan Mize as our new Global Coordinator. Meghan has more than eight years of experience in international agriculture and program management. She also has a background in horticulture, agronomy, agriculture extension, value chain development, and communications.
Meghan began her career in international agriculture as a Peace Corps Volunteer in northern Senegal where she served as an agricultural extension agent working alongside smallholder farmers on field crop extension and community gardening. After Peace Corps, Meghan worked in Washington D.C. for several years managing and designing USAID and USDA programs in value chain development, cold chain development, sustainable agricultural production, and livelihoods in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Africa. Meghan’s next role was based in Niger carrying out a USAID-funded program supporting young entrepreneurs in agriculture, water, and environmental sectors. She also has experience working with horticulture production and marketing in Cambodia. She holds an MS in International Agricultural Development from UC Davis and a BA in Development Studies from UC Berkeley.
Meghan is excited about supporting the growth and development of LandPKS. She is passionate about data-driven sustainable agriculture, soil health, and community-led development. She looks forward to getting to know our partners implementing the app globally and to collaborate with our stakeholders in this phase of the LandPKS app development.
On June 9 -13th the University of Rhode Island in Narragansett, Rhode Island hosted the U.S. National Cooperative Soil Survey Conference, bringing soil and ecological specialists together to promote the collection and delivery of soil resource information. The National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) is a nationwide partnership of U.S. Federal, regional, State, and local agencies who work to investigate, classify, and disseminate information about soils.
Many attendees expressed interest in using LandPKS as part of a soil information knowledge system to help land managers identify and understand land potential. For example, the LandINFO module provides the tools for thorough identification of soil texture, rock fragment, and soil color as well as characterizing site information such as slope, land use, and soil limitations. Feedback from scientists also included an interest for LandPKS to develop in-app tools to deliver soil survey products based on user soil inputs.
[Featured Image: Soil scientists visit a productive agricultural soil subject to recent coastal erosion. Photo by Jon Andreoni.]
For more information on the soil color module and other features available, check out the details of the current version 3.2 release. The LandPKS app is free and available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The LandPKS app was developed by the LandPKS Team for the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS) with support largely from USAID and USDA-ARS. Please contact us at email@example.com with any questions, comments, or feedback.
Dr. Amy Quandt joined the LandPKS project as the Global Coordinator two years ago. At the end of May, we will have to say goodbye to Amy as she moves off to a new position. Starting in August, Amy will be joining the faculty of the Department of Geography at San Diego State University as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Geography. At San Diego State University, Amy is looking forward to continuing her work on the impacts of technology on agricultural productivity and sustainable land management.
During her time with LandPKS, Amy has played a critical role in enhancing the development of the app and worked closely with our partners implementing the app globally. Amy worked on the Land Capability Classification features, as well as the soon-to-be released LandManagement Module. Amy also worked to enhance the LandCover and LandInfo outputs delivered on the phone to users.
Internationally, during her two years with LandPKS Amy has made 7 trips to Africa, including Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Working with the World Agroforestry Center, Amy helped to hire our Ethiopia and Tanzania Country Coordinators. She has also done extensive pilot testing of the LandPKS app with farmers, land use planners, and pastoralists in Africa.
Amy is sad to leave the LandPKS team but we wish her the best in her future endeavors. You can keep up with her work on her website aquandt.weebly.com.