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Wageningen Universiteit (2000)

Moving methodologies : learning about integrated soil fertility management in sub-Saharan Africa

Defoer, T.

Titre : Moving methodologies : learning about integrated soil fertility management in sub-Saharan Africa

Auteur  : Defoer, T.

Université de soutenance : Wageningen Universiteit

Grade : Doctor Thesis 2000

Soil fertility management in sub-Saharan Africa is complex, diverse and dynamic. Farmers’ investments are determined by a wide variety of factors, including bio-physical characteristics of the environment, access to resources and the institutional, and socio-economic context of farming and livelihood making. Within this context, defining soil fertility problems in general terms is not meaningful and proposing a limited number of standard interventions, aimed at the ’average’ farmer is of limited value. Site specific answers are needed, taking account of the site specificity of problems. Moreover, to increase their effectiveness, improved technologies and practices are to be combined in an integrated way, which necessarily has to take place at the farm level.
It is an almost impossible task for research and development organisations to develop technologies that fit the diverse and often rapidly changing conditions. Therefore, farmers have to be closely involved in developing, adapting and fine-tuning improvements. As farms in sub-Saharan Africa are highly complex and diverse, involving numerous connections and interactions between elements within the farm and outside the farm, there is a lot of practical knowledge involved in successful management of soil fertility. Therefore, involving farmers in developing improvements has to be based on this practical knowledge with the objective of improving it. To make this happen, farmers have to be involved in practical learning processes, which are to become the driving force of agricultural development.
The Resource Guide (Managing soil fertility in the tropics : Volume 1 of the thesis) relates to the question how to intervene in relation to soil fertility issues. The core of the Resource Guide is the participatory learning and action research (PLAR) approach for integrated soil fertility management (ISFM), which provides hands-on experience for field practitioners, facilitating learning processes and change within farming communities. PLAR for ISFM presented in Volume 1, is the result of exploratory methodology development, implemented in 3 sites : southern Mali, western Kenya and Marakwet, Kenya. Volume 2 of the thesis (Moving methodologies ; this book) deals with the analysis of this methodology development process and provides an assessment of the impact of the methodology



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