The NSM&LUP was executed by HTS Ltd. with SSLRC (Soil Survey & Land Research Centre and now National Soil Research Institute - NSRI), Cranfield University and funded by the European Community. Project brief was to map the soils and current land cover throughout the Kingdom whilst training Jordanian staff the art or science of soil survey and to establish an ability to use and manipulate the DBMS and GIS systems set up as pert of the study.

There were three phases, or levels, to the study:

Level 1: Reconnaissance throughout the country

Level 2: Semi detailed survey in areas with potential

Level 3: Detailed survey in areas with the highest potential for rainfed agriculture plus soil physics and other specialised studies

The summary from the final report is presented below after the author's input and involvement in the study.

September 1989September 1993


Senior Pedologist

Detailed and organised the purchase and shipping of all project equipment prior to start-up of project. Supervised organisation of all stores and vehicle servicing, recording all data on computerised spreadsheets.

Organised the logistics of the nation-wide survey and undertook routine fieldwork during the Level I (Reconnaissance / Land System) and Level II (Semi-detailed) studies and assisted with the on-the-job training of Jordanian pedologists.

During this time worked in most parts of the country from Wadi Rhum, the Eastern Desert, the basalt boulder fields in the north and in the Highlands. Described over 400 soil profile pits and many auger bores as well as supervising and training counterpart staff.

Assisted the computer specialist in designing computer compatible field data record cards and the DBMS content. Used the DBMS for data retrieval, and recommended developments in the system, whilst assisting with reporting the Level I studies. Made use of the JOSCIS (Jordan Soil and Climate Information System), which was set up by project, for reporting purposes.

Level 1: Fieldwork with Bedouin Labourers

September 1993 - September 1995 September

Project Manager


King Hussein's Visit to the NSM&LUP Project

Managed the project during the Level II (semi-detailed) and Level III (detailed) studies. This included:

  • Technical supervision of routine soils and land cover surveys and responsibility for management of the DBMS and GIS systems.
  • Liaison with the land use planner, senior counterparts and computer programmers in development of computerised land suitability mapping.
  • Liaison with the Client and recommendation of areas to be studied.
  • Assisting and guiding local staff with land cover mapping from satellite imagery and aerial photographs
  • Liaison with and supervision of the RJGC (Royal Jordanian Geographic Centre) in production of base maps (from imagery and existing topographic maps) and final drawing of soils, land cover and land suitability maps.
  • Management of the transport fleet of diesel Land Rovers including servicing and repairs, recording and analysis of running costs etc.
  • Design of overseas training courses, with help of HTS UK, for project staff around identified learning requirements and wishes of staff.
  • Financial and personnel management.
  • Negotiations with Client and Funding Agency on Project funding & invoicing
  • Writing and editing final reports plus liaison with local firm having reports and map albums printed and bound



1.1 Introduction

The National Soil Map and Land Use Study was identified by staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Soil Survey Section in 1986 and processed through the Ministry of Planning with funding being identified in 1988 through the Commission of the European Communities. A contract (Project Number SEM/03/628/005) was signed between the Consultants (HTS LTD., UK) and Client (Ministry of Agriculture) on the 2nd July 1989.

The study was carried out by a combined team of expatriate consultants and Jordanian staff and commenced on 2nd July 1989 with the formal signing of the contract and the arrival of the Project Manager. Other consultant staff, equipment and transport arrived by December 1989 allowing technical work to commence. The Computer Expert arrived in November and began the set-up of the DBMS and GIS systems. Jordanian staff were appointed at this time.

The Level 1 soil survey, a broad reconnaissance of the soils of the whole Kingdom with mapping at 1:250,000 scale, was the first part of a three level study. Level 2 involved semi-detailed soil survey and production of soil, land use and land suitability maps of 9000 km2 at 1:50,000 scale. Level 3 presents soil, land cover and land suitability maps at 1:10,000 scale of about 800 km2 based on a detailed soil survey.

1.2 Background to the Study

The decision to undertake this Project arose from the Government's determination to decrease the Kingdom's dependence on imported food: attempts to increase production have included the development of livestock breeding and fattening centres to increase production of red meat, and the opening up to private enterprise of lands in the Sahl Al-Suwwan, Qa' Disi, and Mudawwara for the irrigated production of cereals and fodder. However, the irrigation water is being pumped from the fossil Disi aquifer which reserves are limited. Future increases in production are likely to depend on more effective use of existing water supplies.

From 1987 to 1989 the agricultural sector accounted for between 7.6 and 8.6 percent of GNP (Central Bank of Jordan, Monthly Statistical Bulletin, June 1994). Between 1990 to 1993 this sector has accounted for between 8.8 and 9.9 percent of GNP.

Agriculture employs about 7.5% of the labour force, that is 7.5% of people actually employed. This percentage has remained relatively stable over the period 1986 to 1993 though there are indications of a gradual decrease with time. However, agriculture remains a sector of great social as well as economic importance.

The total number of people in employment grew by about 80,000 between 1990 and 1993. If it is assumed that there are several dependants for each employee then the population has grown significantly. A growth in population, naturally or by immigration, creates extra demands for urban areas and food. For example, somewhere around 300,000 people arrived in or returned to Jordan during the Gulf War. Some of the food demand can be met by extra production from the agriculture sector, which means more pressure on the land and possible inappropriate land use. Similarly, demand for housing can lead to agricultural land being lost.

Food imports have increased quite considerably from JD 165 million in 1986 (20% of total imports), JD 197 million (16%) in 1989 to JD 435 million (18%) in 1993, however it can be seen that the percentage of total imports is relatively stable. Wheat, the staple grain, normally accounts for about 20% of food imports. Wheat and, to a lesser extent, barley are produced under rainfed conditions in the highlands; production is highly variable as a result of the variable rainfall, but has reached a maximum of 160,000 tonnes, in good seasons, out of a total consumption of 500,000 tonnes. Local production of meat satisfies only about 25 percent of total demand, and is again subject to the constraint on natural pasture imposed by the limited and erratic rainfall. Fruit and vegetable production is an important source of foreign currency earnings.

To date, Jordan has lacked the nation-wide detailed data base on soil and land characteristics which is necessary to allow rational planning of land and water resources utilization, especially in setting priorities for the efficient use of the very limited surface water and groundwater reserves. It is to provide additional basic data and to coordinate existing data that this Project has been undertaken.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of the Project are set out in Section 31 of Annex A of the Terms of Reference which were reproduced in full in Appendix 2 of the Level 1 Report. These objectives are:

- Identify, describe and geographically locate areas of arable land.

- Classify arable land areas according to suitability for irrigated and non-irrigated agriculture.

- Prepare pedologic soil maps for the country and selected areas in accordance with US Soil Taxonomy and correlate with the legend and definitions of the Soil Map of the Arab World established by the Arab Centre for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD). (ACSAD/SS/P16/80, Damascus 1980).

- Obtain all information about soils necessary for agricultural and urban project planning and design and create a digital data bank for storage of this information (JOSCIS - Jordan Soil and Climatic Information System). The staff necessary for updating and utilization of the system being based in Jordan.

- Devise a training schedule for counterpart staff in order to ensure Government follow-up of project activities.

- Provide the Jordanian government with an experienced soil mapping staff, knowledge of digital production of space and thematic maps, and data bank management techniques.

1.4 Project Components

1.4.1 Soil Survey and Land Classification

The basic purpose of the soil survey and land classification was twofold:

(1) to provide an accurate and definitive soil data base, within a formal classification and soil mapping system;

(2) and to evaluate and classify the parameters of soils, topography and water in terms of their suitability for a wide range of agricultural uses.

The studies have been carried out at three different levels of intensity.

Level 1

The initial survey (Level 1) was a reconnaissance study in which careful analysis of Landsat remotely sensed imagery and aerial photography was substantiated and expanded by field observations in sample areas and traverses at an overall density of one observation site every 7.6 km2. Broad soil types thus defined were grouped into appropriate mapping units, and depicted on 1:250,000 scale photomaps produced from the Landsat imagery. The report and map album for Level 1 were completed and passed to the Client in March 1994.

Level 2

Areas delineated as having some potential on the above basis were then subject of a semi-detailed soil survey. Panchromatic SPOT imagery combined with Landsat thematic mapper was used at a scale of 1:50,000 to provide additional and more detailed information and formed the basis of the preliminary soil map. Field survey at an overall density of 3.5 observations/km2 provided detailed information on the soils, land use, topography etc to permit a detailed classification into soil types and soil mapping units which form the basis for soil and land classification maps at 1:50,000. This latter map with its accompanying report form an accurate and reliable basis of identifying possibilities for extending or intensifying agricultural or forestry production; for deciding on priorities where there are competing plans for the use of land; for deciding on the kind of use most suited to particular conditions; for identifying areas of land especially sensitive to degradation and erosion, and for devising appropriate methodologies for sustainable production on sensitive soils. Finally, priority areas for agricultural development were identified for further study at Level 3.

In addition to the soil and land classification map, a land use or land cover map was produced showing the major crops, vegetation types, agroclimatological zones and broad forms of agricultural land use. This map is the least permanent of the series due to the continually developing and changing uses of land.

Level 3

The priority areas which were selected on the basis of their physical suitability were then discussed with the Client and relevant Government Organizations and other interested parties to allow a final selection to be made on the basis of existing plans and priorities.

These areas, listed in Table 1.1 below, described in Chapter 2 of the main report and shown in Figure 2.1 in that report, were subjected to detailed soil survey.

Table 1.1 Level 3 Study Areas

Gross Area

No. of Soil Observations

Level 2 Area








Um Qeis

East Nueimeh























Central Plains











Southern Highlands
















Observation density in the field was 15 per km2 with minor local adjustments made for very rocky or urbanised zones falling within the study area. Detailed soils maps were produced at a scale of 1:10,000 by interpretation of panchromatic aerial photography in conjunction with the field observations.

Further development of the JOSCIS system allowed generation of data to produce land suitability maps from the data in the soil database and GIS systems. Manual assessment of suitability was also carried out.

Land cover was determined on recent (1992) panchromatic aerial photography of 1:30,000 scale and incorporated the findings of the Level 2 studies.

Base Maps were produced by the Royal Jordanian Geographic Centre by enlargement from existing 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 topographic maps.

1.4.2 Data Management

The various levels of soil survey and land use studies generated a very considerable volume of data; soil characteristics being recorded at 41,613 observation sites throughout the Kingdom at Levels 1, 2 and 3. To cope with these data, the project has installed a geo-coded database. Without computer methods, the data would fill several filing cabinets and could only be revised after a great deal of manual effort. The data are being stored in six micro-computers with a total of about 2000 megabytes of storage. User-friendly access procedures have been developed which will be used beyond the life of the project. These will permit the user to pose complex questions and request information on a very wide and comprehensive range of soil and landscape detail. In fact Jordan now has one of the largest soil databases of its kind in the world.

This databank has made collected data readily available and easy to manipulate. However, it has only the ability to manipulate data associated with points on the landscape. A frequent requirement of soil survey and land use studies is that they answer queries on where land of particular characteristics occurs. Traditional map preparation can provide only a single answer to such questions. To enable a range of thematic maps to be made quickly and readily, the Project has set up a Geographical Information System or GIS as an essential part of the information system. This will permit new models to be devised from the basic datasets using new criteria set by scientist, planners and others as needs dictate.

1.4.3 Training and Institutions Building

A major component of the Project has involved the setting up of a Section or Department within the Ministry of Agriculture which can use the database accumulated by the Project to provide information to a wide range of planners and users, and which can respond quickly and effectively to requests for additional information on soils and land. This required:

To achieve this, a training programme was set up which has introduced eleven new graduates and five technical field assistants to the skills and procedures of soil survey and land evaluation. The programme consisted of both formal and informal, on-the-job, training. Suitable candidates were selected and attended courses in the UK on remote sensing interpretation and data management systems, GIS systems (in particular SPANS), land suitability classification, land use planning and land use legislation, project and organisation management and, for the technical field assistants, basic introductory courses on soils and soil survey, soil and land suitability mapping and reporting.

1.5 Project Progress

Level 1 : Level 1 desk studies commenced in October 1989, field studies began in February 1990 and were completed in May 1992. The Final Report was completed in September 1993 and passed to the Client in March 1994 when the Map Album was completed.

Level 2 : Routine Level 2 soil survey field studies commenced in June 1992 and were completed in late December 1993. Land Cover mapping continued till late August 1994. Soil series definition and correlation and soil map drafting was completed by June 1994. Land Suitability mapping was completed in August 1994. The report was completed by the end of December 1994 and the Maps completed by the RJGC in April 1995.

Level 3 : Desk studies commenced in January 1994 and routine field work started in February 1994. Soil Physics desk studies began in October 1993 and field studies began in November 1993 and were completed in December 1994. Routine soils fieldwork was completed in January 1995 and mapping and reporting done during January to April 1995.

1.6 Report Format

1.6.1 Level 1 1.6.2 Level 2 1.6.3 Level 3

The Level 1 report consists of three volumes plus the map album.

  • Volume 1 Summary Report in Arabic (with English Draft)

  • Volume 2 Main Report

  • Volume 3 Representative Profiles and Soil Analyses

  • Volume 2

    Chapter 1 covers background, objectives and methodology.

    Chapter 2 details the physical environment covering, relief, geology and geomorphology, climate and vegetation.

    Chapter 3 covers soil genesis and soil taxonomy.

    Chapter 4 describes the land regions and includes pie charts showing the various soil sub-groups occurring.

    Chapter 5 describes the actual soil mapping units and presents cross sectional diagrams of each unit.

    Chapter 6 covers land suitability and discusses the effects of the various soil parameters mapped in Jordan.





























    The Level 2 report consists of three volumes plus the map album

  • Volume 1 Summary Report in Arabic

  • Volume 2 Main Report

  • Volume 3 Appendices

  • Volume 2

    Achievements, findings and recommendations are presented in a summary to this volume.

    Chapter 1 presents background, objectives and project components.

    The five study areas are described in Chapter 2

    Chapter 3 presents the methodology used in the execution of the studies and covers materials used, soil survey, desk and field studies, data storage, mapping and project output.

    The environment is presented in Chapter 4.

    The higher category USDA soil classification is discussed in Chapter 5 where orders, subgroups, moisture and temperature regimes, diagnostic horizons and families are presented.

    Chapter 6 presents the lower category soil classification where the series are described.

    The soil map units that occur in the five study areas are discussed in Chapter 7. Map units are described as are the soil series which occur within the units.

    Chapter 8 describes the land cover and land cover mapping.

    Land suitability is presented in Chapter 9.

























    The Level 3 report consists of five volumes plus the map album.

    Volume 1 Summary report in Arabic

    Volume 2 The Main Report

    Volume 3 Appendices

    Volume 4 Soil Physics

    Volume 5 Thin Section Studies

    Volume 6 Soil Map Legends

    Volume 2

    The location of the various study areas, the extent and relationships to Level 1 and 2 map units and moisture regimes is presented in Chapter 2.

    Chapter 3 details the methodology employed and materials used and how they were used, including satellite imagery and aerial photographs etc.

    Chapter 4, Soils, details the major criteria used, as defined in Soil Taxonomy, for classifying the soils into Orders and Sub-groups. The Lower Category Classification is discussed and basically defines the criteria used for the soil series established and mapped. Tables are presented with the key factors shown for each series and the major series are described in detail.

    The Soil Map Units defined are detailed in Chapter 5 along with a general description of the study areas. The major subgroups and series in each area are highlighted and the distribution of the various series within the map units is discussed.

    Chapter 6 details the methodology and units delineated on the Land Cover Map. A brief summary for each of the study areas is also presented.

    The parameters used and criteria limits set for land suitability classification are given in Chapter 7 along with tables showing the extents of the various groups of orders in each area. Tables are also presented giving the basic suitability rating, based on soil features alone, for each soil series. These tables, when used in conjunction with topographic and climatic data, would allow suitability classification to be done in the traditional, manual, way. The computerised methodology is described in detail.

    Volume 3 Appendices

    Basic data are presented in Appendices to the report :

    Appendix A Typical Profiles + Lab Data

    B Other Laboratory Data

    C Soil Series Descriptions.

    D Land Suitability Tables

    Volume 4 Soil Physics

    The methodology employed, the sites studied and data collected are presented as a separate report. Data on infiltration rates using double ring and sprinkler methods are presented and discussed as are data on hydraulic conductivity, bulk density, water holding capacity and structural stability.

    Volume 5 Thin Section Studies

    The presence or absence of argillic horizons is a feature considered of considerable importance in the USDA Soil Taxonomy system and their presence places the soil in a different Order - Alfisols.

    Several samples were sent to Aberdeen University, Scotland for the preparation and study of thin sections - the only definitive method for identification of clay skins / cutans and the presence of Alfisols.

    The findings of these studies are presented in Volume 5.

     Map Album 1:10,000 scale map of - Soils

    - Land Cover

    - Land Suitability


    Soil, Land Suitability and Land Cover maps at 1:10,000 scale are presented as diazo prints on the base map compiled from the photo enlargement of 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 topographic maps by the RJGC. Contour detail is not included. The Land Suitability Map is based directly on the Soil Map and the Land Suitability Sub-units delineated are, in fact, subdivisions or amalgamations of the Soil Map Units where the sub-divisions are based on, in most cases, different precipitation zones. These precipitation zones are delimited by the mapped isohyets and are as follows:

    Zone #9; Annual Precipitation Moisture Regime

    A > 400 mm Xeric

    B 400 - 350 Xeric

    C 350 - 300 Xeric

    D 300 - 250 Xeric

    E 250 - 200 Transitional xeric-aridic

    F 200 - 150 Transitional xeric-aridic

    G 150 - 100 Aridic

    H 100 - 50 Aridic

    I < 50 Aridic

    The land suitability sub-units are then combined into groups and the major suitability of the soils within a group are defined and a recommendation for the use of that group given.

    The above approach is as was done for Level 2 and had to be used as land suitability classification for five different uses had to be done and shown on one map - a far from easy or simple task. The Land Suitability Map can be looked upon as a "database" and, in fact, maps for a single land use or land use type (LUT) can easily be derived from the master map or via the GIS.

    In February 1998 submitted a proposal, on the invitation of the Minister for Agriculture, Proposals for Developments 1998 - 2001. Following a site visit in October 1998 a revised, expanded document, Proposals for Development 1999 - 2000+, was submitted in which the extended requests of the Ministry of Agriculture were addressed.


    Copies also held on WOSSAC

    The Author has digital copy of the Level 3 Reports - no maps digitally