Alarmed by the seriousness of land degradation in Ethiopia and encouraged by efforts undertaken by the Ethiopian government to conserve soils and water for agricultural purposes, scientists and development specialists created the SCRP in 1981. The aim was to contribute to the technical, ecological, economic and social improvement of governmental efforts. However, in due course of action, the need to have geospatial data that could make the intended plans more successful. This was the time that Ethiopia's national geospatial data compilation began. Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern Switzerland dates back to the early 1990s started spatial data modeling concepts in the Soil Conservation Research Project (SCRP). However, it was also realized that a regional extrapolation based on knowledge obtained from six research sites in the Ethiopian Highlands demands huge geospatial datasets. Eventually the Geospatial information System Ethiopia, known by its working title 'EthioGS', was conceptualized. Gradually geospatial data compilation which integrate terrain, soil, land cover and use, climate, drainage, infrastructure, population and agriculture in a Geographic information System (GS) is very important for decision making and planning of national resource management strategies.
The focus in release I was on principal geospatial layers for the scientific community in the field of natural resources management. Metadata and procedures in data compilation were kept quite simple and dissemination was restricted to interested ministries of the Ethiopian Government. However, from 2000 onwards informatics and the use of geospatial data within the ministries has increasingly been used so that the second release came up with all related documents, metadata descriptions and geodata standards are enhanced and the contributing community is well extended. With the first release of EthioGIS in 1999, an initial step towards a national concept of spatial data infrastructure typical of the management of natural resources was initiated. The data compilation in the first release covered the most important national spatial data on a single CD-ROM, which constitutes; Boundaries for three levels of administrative units (national, regional, Weredas), Monthly and annual average rainfall distribution (incl. rainfall erosivity model and rainfall and wind pattern regions), Towns and villages, infrastructure (railways, all weather roads, dirt roads, tracks), Topography (digital terrain model with slope, aspect, and elevation), Hydrography (streams, main rivers, perennial rivers, seasonal rivers, lakes and swamps).
However, addressing the wider prospective use of EhtioGIS I geospatial information within the government of Ethiopia, and with the great amount of feedback in recent years, the new release of EthioGS II gave special attention to the following two dimensions: All layers of EthioGIS I release are improved (settlements, topography, hydrography, etc.), updated (i.e. administration, settlements, etc.) and upgraded (i.e. topology, hydrology, soil resources, land cover and land use types, etc.). Many more layers are added to the standard layers of release, derivate from SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) (i.e. watersheds, stream lines, flow accumulation, etc.). Meta-data and a detailed description of the source of information are part of the new release.
Apart from the basic geospatial data updating and provision, in the framework of the 'EthioGS' research project, a series of tools and models have been developed: Among others the module watershed-based interactive desktop mapping and reporting (pdf) was developed based on ESRI's ArcServer technology. This tool was requested by institutions working in the field of watershed planning, and makes it possible to provide spatial statistics in report form for any selected pour point on a stream. At presnet both EthiGIS versions are available in two packages; online and offline.