Joshua Minai

Joshua Minai  Profile Picture
Ecological Sciences & Engineering

Mentor / Lab:
Dr. Darrell G. Schulze, Soil Mineralogy/Chemistry/Pedology

Specific Research Area / Project:
Utilization of Legacy Soil Data for Digital Soil Mapping and Data Delivery for Busia Area, Kenya

Undergraduate Institution:
Kenyatta University

Research Profile:

Soil is the cornerstone of food security and agricultural development. Its care, restoration, enhancement and conservation should intuitively become a major global priority. This can only happen when there is in-depth understanding of existing soil resources. In most countries however, available soil information remains unused or left idle in libraries as artifacts accumulating dust while the demand for soil data is soaring. These soils information exist as soil survey reports and manuals, land evaluation frameworks, soil profile descriptions, and farm management handbooks collectively known as legacy soil data. These have been widely used as meaningful sources of soil information to support soil conservation or as major components of national environmental monitoring. Such information if appropriately mined and repackaged can provide spatially explicit soil information and thus play an important role in the revitalization of agriculture.

The overall objective of this study is to ‘bring legacy soil data back to life’ for a selected portion of Kenya using digital soil mapping techniques. Specific objectives include (i) transform the best available reconnaissance soil survey report of a selected portion of Kenya into a digital format. (ii) Improve the spatial resolution of the soil map of the study area using digital soil mapping techniques, and (iii) develop a prototype platform that will deliver spatially explicit soil and agricultural information on a smart phone or tablet. This study was because of numerous visits to western Kenya to identify factors impeding people living with HIV/AIDS to attain food and nutritional security. Rural small-holder farmers were more interested in finding out (i) what crops they can grow on their farms, (ii) the most probable challenges they might face and how to address them while farming, and (iii) where and how they can access timely agricultural information.

About Me:

Joshua Minai  About Me Picture

I decided to come to graduate school because I got tired of how many programs had failed in an attempt to involve youth in Kenya’s agricultural industry. Everywhere I went, the narrative was the same that youth would never engage in agricultural activities, as they perceive the sector as a ‘dirty job’. On the contrary, those in the sector, lack the facilities and the technological knowhow to improve their agricultural production. One specific encounter I vividly remember, which pushed me over the edge, was when I visited a smallholder farmer, John Juma, in rural western Kenya. John had 27 acres of land but could only plow 0.5 acres because he did not know where could sell his produce if he decided to have all his land cultivated. Therefore, he practiced subsistence farming because he did not want to encounter any agricultural losses.

By then, I used to work at the World Agroforestry Center as a research assistant and my colleagues urged me to think about graduate school in order to understand the ‘wicked’ nature of the agricultural sector. While attending the second African Green Revolution Forum in Ghana, I leant that ‘Agriculture is not just not about ploughing the land. You have to look at it across the value chain. By doing so, you can identify where youth are more willing to be engaged’. It is from this forum that I applied to Purdue’s Ecological Sciences and Engineering (ESE) graduate program for the department of Agronomy, studying soil science.

I have always eyed working for the World Bank or the African Development Bank. In future, I envisage working as a policy officer for national, regional or international agencies in designing, assessing and providing sound and relevant policies that have a positive influence in creating the needed environment that will ease youth participation in the agricultural sector.


  • 2018 office of interdisciplinary graduate program (OIGP) certificate of excellence poster award on the ‘Renewal of Archival Legacy Soil Data; A Case of Busia Area, Kenya’.
  • 2018 Agronomy Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award in recognition of excellence in academic performance in agronomy and commitment to teaching.
  • 2016 George D. Scarseth travel grant to attend the Soil Science Society of America annual meeting, Phoenix, Arizona (November 6-9).
  • 2015 George D. Scarseth travel grant to attend the Soil Science Society of America annual meeting in Minneapolis (November 15-18).


  • Minai, J. O. (2015). Assessing the spatial variability of soils in Uganda. Masters Thesis
  • Milder, J., Hart. A., Dobie, P., Minai, J., Zaleski, C. 2013. Integrated Landscape Initiatives for African Agriculture, Development, and Conservation: A Region-Wide Assessment. Elsevier Ltd. Vol. 54, pp. 68–80.


  • Minai, J., Ngunjiri, M. & Darrell, G. ‘Renewal of Archival Legacy Data: A Case Study of Busia Area, Kenya.’- Oral presentation at the Indiana Academy of Sciences; March 24, 2018.
  • Minai, J., Ngunjiri, M., & Darrell, G., Owens, P., Serrem, C. & Nyabinda. ‘Delivery of Spatial Explicit Soils Information in Western Kenya.’ Oral and Poster presentations at the Soil Science Society of America annual meeting; November 9, 2016.
  • Minai, J. & Darrell, G. ‘Assessing the Spatial Variability of Soils in Uganda on the National Scale’ – Oral presentation at the Soil Science Society of America; November 15, 2015.
  • Minai, J. & Darrell, G. ‘Identifying constraints to food and nutritional security among people living with HIV/AIDS in western Kenya’- Oral presentation at Purdue’s Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, November 2014.
  • Minai, J. & Darrell, G. ‘Identifying constrains to attaining food and nutritional security among people living with HIV/AIDS in western Kenya’- Poster presentation at Purdue’s Ecological Sciences and Engineering 2014 Symposium, March 2014.
  • Minai, J. ‘Youth, Climate Change and Agricultural Development’- Oral presentation at the African Green Revolution Forum, 2nd – 4th September 2010, Accra, Ghana.

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