World Soil Survey Archive and Catalogue

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The Historical Context for Land Resource Surveys in Liberia

LiberiaThe catalogue lists nine entries for Liberia which includes three items from one project focused on the suitability of land for coconut palm plantations. These three items are listed in the catalogue individually but in fact are held together on the shelf as one item in a hard cover folder. Two items are geological in nature and were produced by Hunting Geology and Geophysics in 1969, and 1978 respectively. These have no direct utility for soil or land assessments. The most interesting items are related to soil mapping in preparation for a coffee and cocoa development programme; an assessment of the land capability of County-Grand Gedeh; a soil survey of an agricultural experimental station; and a document produced by USDA in 1951, which is a very broad reconnaissance soil survey of Liberia. Unfortunately the report for Gedeh County is only the first of a two volume series and the map volume is missing from WOSSAC.

A disturbing conclusion of this review of the collection is that there is little recent work in the country or little which is conserved for international use, and the most comprehensive document has the map volume missing. However the key documents held by WOSSAC are noted below.

Reconnaissance Level

The results from a number of fact finding missions to Liberia by the United States Economic Mission during the period 1944-48, are brought together in a 107 page, A5 sized ,soft cover booklet, entitled Reconnaissance Soil Survey of Liberia (WOSSAC ID 23980). The author is William E. Reed, who prepared a one page figure bound into the booklet as a reconnaissance level map, which has no scale. Soils are recorded at a zonal level as Latosols, Lithosols or Regosols. The Latosol Group are further sub-divided into six associations based mainly on the geology of the parent material. There is a useful discussion on soil fertility and an outline land capability based in seven potential land uses.

Detailed Surveys

WOSSAC ID 23543, provides a 1:20,000 scale map and report of a Soil Survey of the Central Experimental Station Suakoko, Liberia, published by the USDA, Soil Conservation Service, in 1977. The extent of the survey is 1,689 acres. Fourteen map units were identified, based on seven soil series: both series and the mapping units are described in the report. The land suitability of the map units is assessed for a range of crops.

Project Documentation

There are two comprehensive items held by WOSSAC which relate to the development potential of specific crops.

  • WOSSAC ID 1525. Coffee and Cocoa Development Program: Pedological Maps
    This holding is only of the maps-there is no report. Twelve maps are held all at a scale of 1:10,000. These were prepared by an Abidjan based consultancy in 1976. Each area has an outline map, a soil map and a 'fitness for farming' map. Maps are dyeline copies only and the legends are in both French and English. Land suitability for both crops is provided in the 'Fitness for Farming' maps, which is sub-divided into five classes.
  • WOSSAC items ID 1526, ID 1527 and ID 1528. Plan Palmier Cocotier. Prospections Pedologiques Pour Localiser les Sites des Plantations, (Land Suitability of Coconuts).
    This WOSSAC holding has a 64 page typewritten report; a volume which contains 47 annexes; and map box which contains three map volumes, relating to three specific sites, plus an overview of forest conditions.
    The survey was carried out by Sodopalm and published in July 1976. All the documents are in French. Maps are a scale of 1:10,000 and are dyelines with legends in both English and French. The sites are located in three Counties: Buto, Maryland, and Gedah. Soil classification is based mostly on texture and gravel content. The annex volume includes soil profile descriptions and chemical and mechanical analysis.

County Assessments

The WOSSAC archive contains one county level assessment – a Land Capability Survey of Grand Gedah County - (WOSSAC ID 32), completed in 1986 by Arup Ireland International, with EDF funding. This item is volume 1 of a 2 volume report of which the second volume is the album of maps. Unfortunately volume 2 is not within the WOSSAC collection. Therefore the 44 maps produced are missing. These include reconnaissance surveys of vegetation, land use, and landforms at scales of 1:250,000; semi-detailed village surveys at a scale of 1:20,000; and finally a number of surveys undertaken for swamp land at a detailed mapping level, resulting in plans at a 1:2,000 scale. The work also produced land capability assessments for both upland and swamp soils for rice and upland crops. The absence of the maps from the WOSSAC collection limits the value of this document.


The WOSSAC collection also includes two key documents relating to the geology of Liberia:

  • Interpretation of an Aeromagnetic Survey over the Liberian Continental Shelf (WOSSAC ID 14146)
  • An Operations Report of a Helicopter-Borne Spectrometric Survey in Liberia (WOSSAC ID 14147)


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