2015 International
Year of Soils


Africa in Profile

Afrika DoorGrond

Africa in Profile


As one of the actions to mark the “International Year of the Soil”, the Soil Science Society of Belgium has taken the initiative to organize an exhibition on “Africa Soils 2015” from 4 December 2015 through to 29 January 2016. The exhibition will be hosted it in the Pandgang of the Arenberg Library, Science, Engineering and Technology Campus of the KU Leuven. In connection with the exhibition a number of scientific events will be organized:


Africa in Profile


Although it is all around us, soil is often the most overlooked natural resource (da Silva, 2013). Even more so, the soils of Africa remain an absolute mystery to most of us. With the ‘Africa in Profile’, soilscapes of the ‘African Continent’ are presented in a nutshell and in a language readily understood by everybody. The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed. Soils are voiceless. Few people speak out for them. However, they are our silent ally in food production (da Silva, 2014).

The goal of the exhibition therefore is to raise awareness of soil by showing its great services to society in terms of natural, economic and cultural values.


Africa in Profile

Staging of the “Africa in Profile 2015” Exhibition

The core of the exhibition will be a set of soil monoliths from all over Africa.

They will be on display according to Africa’s major climatic zones. The exhibition draws from the Soil Atlas of Africa, the French version of which will be launched during the International Congres on 4 December 2015. Soil monoliths will be projected in their natural context using pictures illustrating their natural value. Cultural values of the soils are traced through history. Last but not least, land use and ensuing problems of land degradation/rehabilitation will be reflected upon.

Besides monoliths, a set of magnificent ancient and new maps and documents will be exhibited in order to provide in-depth information on the distribution of the soils and land use in the African continent.


Africa in Profile

Objects on display

A large number of soil monoliths from Africa are on display. They originate from the World Soil Museum of ISRIC (The Netherlands). The visitors can learn about the role of soils in life and ecosystems. They get an impression of the enormous variation of soil types in Africa, from the colorful salty soils from the Danakil desert to the dark rich soils Mount Kilimanjaro. For each major climatic zone of Africa the exhibition displays soil monoliths with accompanying data including a full profile description, soil chemical and physical data, and information on the landscape, land-use and cultural aspects.


Lay-out of the exhibition

Africa in Profile

  • What’s a soil – what’s an African soil ?
  • Broad physiographic parts of Africa
  • African climates
  • African cultures and African economy
  • In the main corridors of the Pandgang, Africa is presented according to three major Agro-ecological zones: humid, sub-humid and semi-arid/arid.
    Per zone there is a focus on soil, and its natural, cultural and economic value.
  • Per “zone” region – some typical soils – vegetation/nature (e.g. rainforest…) – what people do on it – what the economic value is of soils and earth resources …
  • Overview of soil mapping in Africa
  • Land degradation and rehabilitation
  • How to make soil monoliths



4 December 2015: International congress:  “Africa in Profile 2015”
Aula van de Tweede Hoofdwet, 01.02
Kasteelpark Arenberg 41
3001 Heverlee
4 December 2015 evening: Opening of the exhibition and International Congres to launch of the “French version of the Soil Atlas of Africa”
5 December 2015: Celebration of the World Soil Day of the International Year of the Soil.
15 January 2016: Strategic forum on food production in Africa
+ Posters from NGO’s active in Africa
5 December 2015 – 29 January 2016: Exhibition open for the broad public


Scientific Committee

  • Marc Vervenne
    Honorary Rector KU Leuven, President of the Flemish UNESCO Commission of Belgium

  • Bruno Delvaux
    Honorary Rector Université Catholique de Louvain

  • Mitiku Haile
    Honorary President Mekelle University, Ethiopian Ambassador to UNESCO

  • Luca Montanarella
    Leader EU, Land Resources and Soil Action, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy

  • Arwyn Jones
    Expert EU, Land Resources and Soil Acion, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy

  • Guido Gryseels
    General Director, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium

  • Stephan Mantel
    Head International Soil Museum, ISRIC, The Netherlands

  • Rik van den Bosch
    Director ISRIC - World Soil Information, The Netherlands

  • Lamourdia Thiombiano
    FAO Regional Office, Ghana

  • Didas Kimaro
    Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania


  • Ronald Vargas
    Land and Water Development Division, FAO, Rome

  • Nteraya Sanginga
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

  • Eric Van Ranst
    Laboratory of Soil Science, Ghent University, Belgium

  • Jan Nyssen
    Physical Geography, Ghent University

  • Jean Chapelle
    Soil Science, Université de Liege (Gemblox/Huy)

  • Laurent Bock
    Soil Science, Université de Liege, Gembloux

  • Karen Vancampenhout
    Soil Science, KU Leuven Geel Campus

  • Stefaan Dondeyne
    Division of Soil and Water, KU Leuven, Belgium

  • Roel Merckx
    Division of Soil and Water. KU Leuven, Belgium

  • Seppe Deckers
    Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven, Belgium


International visibility through the International Year of the Soil

Africa in Profile

On 24 April 2013, at the 146 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the Unitied Nations Council, FAO member Countries endorsed the request from the Kingdom of Thailand in the framework of the GSP for the proclamation of the International Year of Soils (IYS) 2015. The IYS will serve as a platform for raising awareness on the importance of sustainable soil management as the basis for food systems, fuel and fibre production, essential ecosystem functions and better adaptation to climate change for present and future generations.

The Leuven 'Africa in Profile' exhibition is one of the activities officially registered by the IUSS community to mark the IYS through the Global Soil Partnership.


Supporting organizations

  • Soil Science Society of Belgium
  • International Union of Soil Sciences
  • The Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium
  • ISRIC (International Soil Reference and Information Centre/ World Soil Museum)
  • Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
  • FAO Land and Water Division through the Global Soil Partnership
  • KU Leuven:
    • Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
    • Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
    • KU Leuven, Technology Campus Geel
    • KU Leuven International Office Operation and Management
  • UC Louvain
  • Laboratory of Soil Science U Gent


Africa in Profile


2Bergen - CBA - Campusbibliotheek Arenberg
de Croylaan 6 (postbus 2000)
B 3001 Heverlee

Open: Monday to Friday: 8.30 - 22.00h
Saturday & Sunday: 10.00 - 19.00h