Identifying and classifying local indicators of soil quality
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The increasing interest in local soil knowledge is largely due to the realization that farmer communities that have been interacting with their soils for a long time can provide many insights into the sustainable management of tropical soils. A participatory approach, in the form of a methodological guide, has been developed and used in Latin America and Africa to identify and classify local indicators of soil quality related to permanent and modifiable soil properties. This methodological tool aims to empower local communities to better manage their soil resources through improved decision making and monitoring of their environment. It is also designed to steer soil management towards developing practical solutions to identified soil constraints and monitoring the impact of the management strategies implemented to address such constraints. The methodological approach presented here constitutes one tool to capture local demands and perceptions of soil constraints as an essential guide to relevant research and development activities. A significant component of this approach is the collaboration between technical officers and farmers to build an effective communication channel with each other. The participatory process also places considerable emphasis on consensus building among farmers to determine those soil-related constraints that should be tackled first. Such consensus is an important step toward collective action by farming communities if improved soil management strategies are to be adopted at a landscape scale.