Sharing knowledge to better manage our natural resources

Photo: C. Capeche, Embrapa

Photo: C. Capeche, Embrapa

Farmers constitute the largest group of natural resource managers on the planet, but how can they be expected to make the best decisions about soil, land, water and trees without all the facts?

During the World Congress on Agroforestry in February 2104 a new methodology for effectively sharing knowledge between farmers and technical professions to help address global natural resource management (NRM) challenges such as land degradation was presented.

“There is a huge amount of knowledge being generated worldwide about how best to manage natural resources in a range of contexts,” explains Edmundo Barrios, land and soil management scientist with the World Agroforestry Centre. “But only a fraction of this information eventually becomes actionable knowledge that farmers can effectively use.”

Together with colleagues from Embrapa and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Barrios has developed the InPaC-S participatory approach and methodological guide which aims to fill the gaps in local and technical knowledge in order to ensure better NRM decisions are made.

The approach recognizes an overlap in understanding of core concepts between local and technical knowledge. But where gaps occur in technical knowledge, these can generally be filled by local knowledge and vice versa.

Barrios explains the process of filling such gaps as developing an ‘expanded shared knowledge’. “Blending local and technical knowledge builds the capacity of smallholder farming communities to deal with issues that are a high priority for them in a way that is also realistic to their context and circumstances.”

In particular, Barrios sees the monitoring of local soil conditions as an area where expanded shared knowledge can greatly help farmers and other land managers to make better decisions.

“Farmers’ knowledge about native trees that can foster the activity of beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms under their area of influence could result in these trees being used as part of rehabilitation efforts to recover degraded lands.”

Sharing knowledge not only helps farmers better manage their soil and land, it also improves communication between all those working to address NRM issues, builds consensus and promotes collective action on priority issues.

“Through expanded shared knowledge, the human and social capital of rural communities as well as institutions can be strengthened.”

More information

Barrios E, Coutinho H L C, Medeiros C A B (2012). InPaC-S: Participatory Knowledge Integration on Indicators of Soil Quality – Methodological Guide. ICRAF, Embrapa, CIAT. Nairobi, 178.

See also: United for soil health'

Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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