It would be important to know whether a single dosage of lime could be enough to maintain sufficient soil productivity for at least five years, says project manager, Senior Scientist Tegist Chernet from GTK.

International GTK offers: Numerous SKILLS under one roof

Text: Jaana Ahlblad

Food security, urban geology, mineral resources, sustainable mining, cleantech, risk management, digital solutions. GTK has comprehensive expertise in many fields. In Africa, GTK has gained experience over many decades, starting in the 1970s.

During these years, GTK has participated in co-operation projects in Angola, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. GTK – one of the largest geological research centres in Europe – is now heading to Malawi and Cameroon.

Minerals in the Golden Triangle

The “Golden Triangle” megaproject connects three industrial centres between the Nile River and the Red Sea in southern Egypt. The project aims to create new industrial and mining projects and develop agriculture and tourism. The area of 6,000 square kilometres has oil reserves, rich mineral resources, ongoing mining, important agricultural areas and a growing travel business.

The Federation of Egyptian Industries recently visited Finland. Egyptian delegates and GTK geospecialists discussed the specific needs of the Golden Triangle. There is a need for modern solutions regarding the mineral potential and re-mining, as well as the mining environment and cleantech.

The delegates were also interested in GTK’s capability to support Egypt in establishing certified laboratories. Another important topic in Espoo was food security.

– We are delighted that the Egyptian business delegation contacted us and we hope to conduct projects together with our Egyptian partners, says Philipp Schmidt-Thomé, Head of International Cooperation at GTK.

He adds that GTK collaborates with the Natural Resources Institute Finland to combine the best possible expertise, for example, in issues concerning food security.

Schmidt-Thomé also emphasises GTK’s knowledge in climate change adaptation and risk management.

– We address challenges through vulnerability analyses and communication with local experts to identify best ways to manage different types of risks.

With this methodology, GTK has successfully supported climate change adaptation in more than 10 countries.

Dramatic increase in the wheat  crop in Ethiopia

Remarkably good things can come out of a relatively small project.

In many parts of Ethiopia the soil is highly acidic. This disturbs agriculture and drastically reduces crop yields.

Adding the right amount of carbonate (lime) with the right proportion of fertilizers significantly increases soil health and productivity. Adding lime cuts the need for fertilization in half. The major increase in productivity reduces labour-intensive activities on the farm, ensures household food security and increases the possibilities for basic education of children. It also lessens pressure on deforestation, as more land does not need to be acquired for farming.

The beneficial results of the project implemented by GTK, the Geological Survey of Ethiopia, the Oromia Agricultural Research Institute, the Natural Resources Institute of Finland and the Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia have also been noted by FAO, UNDP, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and many public and private operators. The budget for the project implemented in 2014–15 was only 500,000 euros.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland has awarded another 700,000 euros in funding.

– We will now assess the lime resources and plan farm trials lasting three seasons. It would be important to know whether a single dosage of lime could be enough to maintain sufficient soil productivity for at least five years, says project manager, Senior Scientist Tegist Chernet from GTK.

This would help to keep the agricultural costs as low as possible for the farmers, especially by minimizing lime transportation expenses.

– Based on trial results from upscaled experimental areas, we could compile specific recommendations for the region, Chernet continues.

Research was conducted on actual farms in the Oromia region.

– I wanted to hear the experiences of the real farmers and learn from them. The average size of smallholder farmers’ land is less than 0.5 hectares, so it is crucial to make the soil productive, says Tegist Chernet.

She points out that the population of Ethiopia is rapidly growing, but the overall land area will remain the same. Small fields will soon be further divided among the children of farmers, and smaller fields must produce enough to feed the families.

Agriculture is a key sector in Ethiopia’s economy. More than 40% of its GDP and 85% of export earnings come from agriculture. The government puts a lot of emphasis on secure food production in the country.

Tegist Chernet has worked hard to obtain more funding to continue and upscale the project, even to other regions. She has put her whole heart into this work. Chernet left Ethiopia 20 years ago to study in Finland, and she feels that she owes a lot to her home country.

– I received a good education and a good start in life. I know that most of my relatives can’t get a proper meal even once a day. I follow my father’s advice: “Remember! These farmers paid for your education without educating themselves. They gave you all out of their poverty.” Now it’s my time to pay them back.


Modern tools to find minerals

Much of Africa’s mineral resources are still undiscovered and underexploited, as noted by the African Union Conference of Ministers. By developing systematic geological mapping, much larger resource potential could be brought to daylight. The PanAfGeo project is now addressing this demand.

PanAfGeo is an EU–African initiative to improve geoscientifi c knowledge, skills and practices, as well as the availability of good quality data from geological surveys in Africa.

– We will develop and apply the latest methods of mineral exploration with our African colleagues, says Senior Expert Riitta Teerilahti from GTK.

By collecting and combining diff erent types of data, it is possible to create specifi c models to evaluate the mineral potential and fi nd new mineral resources. Upgrading of geological data and making it easily available in digital format will attract foreign investors and enhance business opportunities in Africa.

– Geoscientifi c information can also be used in monitoring the environmental status, planning strategic land use and supporting agriculture, Teerilahti adds.

Ten European geological surveys are taking part in the ambitious PanAfGeo project. In Africa, the counterpart is the Organization of African Geological Surveys (OAGS), which represents a large number of national geological surveys. PanAfGeo consists of eight work packages; GTK is the leader of the mineral resources entity.

– The project’s aim is to cover more than 50 African countries. Training will be provided in English, French and Portuguese. After three years, possible continuation of the project will be assessed, Teerilahti tells.

Riitta Teerilahti has solid experience in capacity building and training co-operation in Africa. She stepped onto her African path over 20 years ago in Namibia.

The stakeholders in PanAfGeo (Geoscientifi c Knowledge & Skills in African Geological Surveys) are the African Union, the World Bank, Unesco, UNDP and many others.

Digitalising bedrocks in Malawi and Cameroon

“Enormous project, excellent results” is how one could describe the assessment work carried out in Uganda a few years ago. GTK was the leader in a project that targeted the updating of Uganda’s geodata and compiling of geological maps in a modern form. Digimaps are especially benefi cial for investors interested in mineral resources.

– Before Uganda, we carried out related work in Mozambique. Large projects of this kind require the special expertise that GTK has, assures Senior Scientist Hannu Mäkitie.

Next, GTK’s specialists and their partners are heading to Malawi and Cameroon to work on similar bedrock mapping projects in co-operation with the French Geological Survey (BRGM).

– The fields of geochemistry, geophysics and ore geology are also included these projects. In addition, we will train our Malawian and Cameroonian colleagues on the latest mapping techniques, which is a very important part of the work, Mäkitie adds.


The mapping of the geology and mineral resources of Uganda was implemented by a consortium headed by the GTK together with the Geological Survey and Mines Department of Uganda (DGSM).

Finnish supervisors in Mozambique

It requires plenty of careful planning to build a major project. Elaborate and close supervision is also needed to achieve the planned goals efficiently and correctly. GTK has now taken on this demanding supervisory role in Mozambique, together with the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy of Mozambique.

The Mining and Gas Technical Assistance Project (MAGTAP) has five components, each with multiple sub-components. One of the sub-projects covers the themes of acquiring and utilising geodata. Under this project are 16 sub-projects that GTK is precisely monitoring.

– We make sure that the projects are planned well, the best operators are chosen and the work is carried out properly in every way. We can also take part in negotiations considering changes in the project plans, says Maija Kurimo, Senior Specialist at GTK.

Kurimo says GTK is globally well known for its good reputation.

– GTK has proven its competence and reliability through the continuity of its work. In Africa, we started working in the 1970s, and co-operation is still going on. We emphasize the quality of our work.

Maija Kurimo’s personal career in Africa began 20 years ago. Ms Kurimo always enjoys meeting people in Africa.

– They have made a big impression. I enjoy working with my African colleagues, Kurimo tells.

Maija Kurimo and other specialists from GTK will supervise a geoscientific infrastructure development programme in Mozambique lasting five years. One project sector comprising an airborne geophysical survey in selected strategic areas rich in mineral resources has already effectively achieved its goals.


Ensuring food security is one of the most important tasks of any state. The geological approach allows to understand the quality of soil in different areas and what measures are required in order to improve the productivity of the soil.

GTK’s areas of expertise

Sustainable mineral economy

How can sustainability be created? At GTK we know. Our solid knowledge covers the entire life cycle of mining. Our expertise in this area is globally highly valued. We have a wide spectrum of know-how in mineral potential exploration and ecologically efficient processing of ores. GTK Mintec is Europe’s leading test laboratory in customised research and continuous process testing at the pilot scale.

Built environments

How can better environments be built? At GTK we know. We generate critical geological information for urban development, land-use planning, infrastructure and construction. For example, mineral aggregates, from asphalt and concrete aggregates to railway ballast, play a significant role in our modern world. We know how to assess and manage aggregate resources. Plus, we have over 10 years of experience in developing and implementing climate change adaptation and natural hazard mitigation.

Food security

How can soil productivity be increased? At GTK we know. We have long-term experience in the improvement of agricultural soils and in agro-mineral resources. We also have strong knowledge in securing groundwater resources.


How can recyclability be increased? At GTK we know. We are advancing processes that reduce waste and increase recyclability. We identify in the potential of geo-energy as source of energy, as well as in heating and cooling.

Digital solutions

How can geological information be digitalized? At GTK we know. We have over 35 years of experience in digital data management. Our cartographic skills and techniques represent all the possibilities for the dynamic and innovative use of digital information. We take advantage of the latest state-of-the-art technology.