Traditional knowledge on soil management and conservation in the inter-Andean region, northern Ecuador


Andosols, farmer’s perception, ethnopedology, soil conservation, plant indicators, soil fertility.


Local farmers' knowledge of edaphic fertility indicators is a decisive factor for decision making and sustainable soil management. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine soil fertility indicators according to the criteria of small farmers and contrast it with scientific knowledge. A field study was developed in northern Ecuador, where 95 semi-structured surveys were applied to farm owners in the Andean and Subtropical zones. Each questionnaire grouped several questions with topics such as plant indicators of soil fertility, physical indicators of soil fertility, forms of soil degradation and conservation strategies, as well as the acquisition of knowledge over time according to farmers' perception. Farmers consider that crops are indicators of soil fertility, while the presence of “weeds” indicate poor soils. Additionally, characteristics like color, texture, stoniness, depth, the presence of macrofauna and crop yield indicated soil fertility. Also, farmers are aware of the soil's contamination and of conservation strategies available to avoid this; however, since their main objective is to improve crop yield and not precisely soil conservation, they do not always apply these strategies. Some of these practices are transmitted from one generation to the next and are at risk of being lost, hence the importance of integrating farmers’ perception and scientific knowledge to generate guidelines for sustainable soil management.


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