Indigenous knowledge reveals soil fertility status in Central Kenya

Scientific evaluation of smallholder land use knowledge in Central Kenya

Land Degradation and Development (Impact Factor: 1.99). 07/2007; 19(1):77 – 90. DOI:10.1002/ldr.815
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ABSTRACT The following study was conducted to determine smallholders’ land use management practices and agricultural indicators of soil quality within farmers’ fields in Chuka and Gachoka divisions in Kenya’s Central Highlands. Data on cropping practices and soil indicators were collected from farmers through face-to-face interviews and field examinations. Farmers characterised their fields into high and low fertility plots, after which soils were geo-referenced and sampled at surface depth (0–20 cm) for subsequent physical and chemical analyses.

Farmers’ indicators for distinguishing productive and non-productive fields included crop yield, crop performance and weed species. Soils that were characterised as fertile, had significantly higher chemical characteristics than the fields that were of poor quality. Fertile soils had significantly higher pH, total organic carbon, exchangeable cations and available nitrogen. Factor analysis identified four main factors that explained 76 per cent of the total variance in soil quality. The factors were connected with farmers’ soil assessment indicators and main soil processes that influenced soil quality in Central Kenya. Soil fertility and crop management practices that were investigated indicated that farmers understood and consequently utilised spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability in soil quality status within their farms to maintain and enhance agricultural productivity.
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