Towards an integration of conventional land evaluation methods and farmers' soil suitability assessment: a case study in northwestern Syria uri icon

abstract

  • Adaptation of land use to the potentialities and constraints of local agroecologies is a key principle of sustainable land management. Farmers and land resource professionals assess the options that optimise the productivity and sustainable land use through different knowledge systems. Both systems have advantages and drawbacks. Through a case study in a village of northwestern Syria, an approach was developed to integrate the knowledge of both farmers and land resource experts in order to promote adoption of new land use systems. This was done by comparing a farmer-led land suitability assessment (FLSA) with the results of an expert-led land suitability assessment (ELSA) so as to evaluate respective comparative advantages and complementarities. The results of FLSA and ELSA were integrated in a geographical information system (GIS). The farmers compared the results of FLSA and ELSA and their input ELSA was upgraded to suit local circumstances. Some striking differences came out between FLSA and ELSA, which could be explained by a participatory land evaluation. The farmers' knowledge provided a better understanding of the impact of microclimatic variations on crop productivity. This is an important bonus of the participatory approach because detailed climatic data for long periods are rarely available in most rural communities. The FLSA procedure explained adequately the overriding weight of socio-economic constraints over biophysical opportunities. A constraint in the participatory approach is that useful and interesting indigenous knowledge is often scarce. GIS was instrumental in the correlation of indigenous and expert land units and in the farmers' validation of land suitability. The benefits of this approach to the researchers were clear. The farmers on the other hand highly appreciated the improved communication with the scientists. The better interaction with the farmers will eventually pay off when it comes to adoption of improved management recommendations. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2003
  • 2003