Merging farmers' and scientists' knowledge in participatory soil mapping and management: a case study from semi-arid eastern Kenya
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Sustainable natural resources management and in particular soil management requires the integration of farmers, researchers and other stakeholders' knowledge for the purpose of enhanced rural development. A field study was conducted by an interdisciplinary team of six scientists in Kasikeu Sub-Location of Makueni District to assist in merging the farmer's and scientist's knowledge on soils in a participatory soil mapping. Gender sensitive farmer group meetings, on-site discussions, transect walks, soil profile descriptions, and laboratory soil analysis were used to achieve the objective of the study. The results of the study showed that farmers in Kasikeu mainly use soil surface characteristics such as colour, texture and coarseness to classify soils. Scientists on the other hand use the FAO/UNESCO Legend for the Soil Map of the World which lays emphasis on the characteristics. of the subsoil. Further, at farm level, the farmer knows in detail the soil types, uses and management of his soil after living and working on the soils for a long time. Scientists on the other hand acquire the knowledge on the soils in a relatively short time through soil survey, testing and classification. The analytical data and other scientific data complement the farmer's knowledge on aspects that are difficult to interpret. Women farmers posses more detailed information on soils than men farmers, since the women are more involved in farming activities. Finally, the study showed that, the merging of indigenous knowledge provided by farmers and the scientific know how and facilities provided by the scientists llllderscored the fact that both farmers and scientists need each other. In this way, scientists will be in a better position to identify the most appropriate agricultural inteI"¥entions for improving soil productivity.