Visualizing relationships in interdisciplinary research with Geographic Information Systems: A case study utilizing food security research in Sahelian West Africa

Colin Michael Minielly, Danish Rehman, Erika Bachmann, David Natcher, Derek Peak, Tom Yates


Achieving food security in the semi-arid region of West Africa remains challenging, primarily due to a combination of harsh climate and low soil fertility. The University of Saskatchewan, in partnership with many international organizations, has been researching solutions to increase the profitability of smallholder farmers in the region. This joint partnership aims at improving soil fertility for smallholder farming in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.  Data have been collected in eight different research sites, and include rainwater harvesting, crop yields, and soil samples.  The data have a timeframe ranging from one year to many years. Prior to the University of Saskatchewan’s commitment to the project, research data had only been utilized on a local  scale, with relatively low success in sharing results and findings across national borders.With this project, collaboration occurred among multiple researchers from different countries and disciplines. A new technique used for collaboration was an interactive Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database. GIS has proven to be a powerful tool and platform for analysing and disseminating research data. This geospatial analysis laid the foundation for further research, resulting in a robust examination of soil and socioeconomic data from overseas.


Geographic Information Systems (GIS); ArcGIS; West Africa; food security; micro dosing; soil fertility

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