Participatory soil survey: Experience in working with a Mesoamerican indigenous community
van Ranst, E.
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This article discusses a participatory approach to integrating scientific soil surveys and local soil surveys in designing conservation plans. The objective of this study was to collaborate with a local community to design a participatory resource soil map in the Purhepecha community of San Francisco Pichataro. The goal of the research was to understand local knowledge, beliefs, perceptions and management practices in soil, relating this knowledge to scientific soil maps. Methods used were a literature review of participatory soil survey studies. Methods for field research included ethnopedology and ethnographic research techniques, including a participatory soil survey, interviews, triad tests, soil questionnaire, soil profile descriptions, soil correlation monoliths, soil-landscape cross-sections, and resource mapping. Twenty-seven farmers (six were women) were interviewed. Results show that Pichartaro farmers have five central soil types: hard and sticky, powdery, clayey, and gravelly. Farmers described and classified soils based on color, texture, landscape position, stoniness,and organic matter concentration. When making soil taxonomies, farmers put all soils with other human and nonhuman beings, and then break them into the five major types and so forth. Results also show that farmers pass local soil knowledge through generations with community meetings, land management laws, and experience. Using GIS mapping, it was concluded that local farmers and scientists make very similar soil maps, which are based on soil and landscape (terrain) connections. However, local farmers also conceptualize soil and land properties based on land ownership, sense of place, and identity. From this collaboration, farmers and soil scientists were able to make a community-based land-use plan.