Grounded in the landscape: Eliciting farmers’ understanding of soil and soil fertility, Mali (West Africa)


T. Crane

Type of Document:
Research Brief


SANREM CRSP, University of Georgia

Date of Publication:

Place of Publication:
Watkinsville, GA


In order to develop convincing messages and sustainable interventions, it is necessary to understand how farmers themselves perceive soil conditions and how these perceptions influence their soil management and land use decisions. This brief illustrates an ethno-scientific methodology for eliciting farmers’ conceptualization of soil and soil fertility.

Ethnographic interviews revealed that farmers have an extensive and nuanced knowledge of soils. They also indicated that this knowledge is inherently linked to farmers’ observations of other aspects of the landscape, such as topography and hydrology. Farmers’ assessments of soil fertility extend beyond the boundaries of fields themselves, to encompass relationships between biotic and abiotic components of the ecological system, including humans, animals, crops, trees, and water. This understanding calls for a systems-oriented approach to soil conservation that articulates with broader-scale efforts to sustain ecosystem integrity.

This brief is drawn from the conference paper:

Crane, T. “Ethnopedology in Central Mali.” Presented to the SANREM CRSP Research Scientific Synthesis Conference, November 28-30, 2001, Athens, Georgia.

Additional Bibliographic Information

SANREM CRSP Research Brief 2002 No. 11

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