If soil fertility is not the problem, compost is not the solution

Dillmann Céline, Bos Swen, Gay-Des-Combes Justine, Buttler Alexandre, Garcia Claude. 2016. If soil fertility is not the problem, compost is not the solution. In : Tropical ecology and society reconciliating conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Program and abstracts. Plinio Sist (ed.), Stéphanie Carrière (ed.), Pia Parolin (ed.), Pierre-Michel Forget (ed.). ATBC. Storrs : ATBC, Résumé, p. 301. Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC 2016), Montpellier, France, 19 June 2016/23 June 2016.

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Abstract : The landscape of Central Menabe in West Madagascar is characterised by dry deciduous forest, but deforestation puts pressure on this ecosystem. Subsistence slash-and-burn agriculture is considered to be one of the main drivers of deforestation. Its impact on the local ecosystem and livelihoods highlights the need for alternative and hopefully more sustainable cultivation. Research has proven that the inclusion of local knowledge in the design of an intervention seeking to bring about changes in farmers' practices is useful. It reveals factors influencing farmers' decisions that might have been otherwise overlooked by academics, yet might be crucial for changing the local stakeholders' management practices. This study is embedded in a larger project seeking to introduce a compost, made from local trees and combined with ashes in slashand-burn cultivation, that would help maintaining soil fertility and therefore reducing the need for new land from the forest by the farmers. On the side of the soil analysis and field trials, we conducted a survey of the farmers' local ecological knowledge on soil fertility and other soil properties relevant to yield. This study relies on a set of repeated interviews with farmers from a village in the study area. The collected knowledge was recorded in a knowledge base according to the formal grammar of the "Agro-ecological knowledge toolkit" software. Based on the information gathered, we provide an insight into the nature of farmers' knowledge and their perception of the ecological system they live in. This analysis allowed the identification of determining factors that drive their decisions. In spite of the importance of soil fertility, weed management appeared to be the more relevant factor urging farmers to shift their fields and clear new forest patches. As long as the dominating problem of weed management is not addressed, farmers will probably not adopt the compost as a novel technique to ensure longer cultivation periods on the same field. Based on our findings, we argue that future research needs to widen its scope in order to integrate the needs, constraints and aspirations of the local actors, if changes in natural resource management are to be adopted in practice. The elicitation of local knowledge is a good place to begin. (Résumé d'auteur)

Classification Agris : P35 - Soil fertility
F04 - Fertilizing
K01 - Forestry - General aspects
Q70 - Processing of agricultural wastes

Auteurs et affiliations

  • Dillmann Céline, EPHZ (CHE)
  • Bos Swen, EPHZ (CHE)
  • Gay-Des-Combes Justine, EPHZ (CHE)
  • Buttler Alexandre, EPFL [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne] (CHE)
  • Garcia Claude, CIRAD-ES-UPR BSef (CHE) ORCID: 0000-0002-7351-0226

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