Exploring farmers’ local knowledge and perceptions of soil fertility and management in the Ashanti Region of Ghana
Farmers’ local knowledge of soil fertility and management strategies plays a significant role in fertility maintenance of farmlands and also contributes to the participatory development of interventions to sustain farm productivity. A field study was conducted in the Ashanti Region of Ghana to assess farmers’ local knowledge of soil fertility and fertility processes, and to analyze how this knowledge influences soil fertility management strategies. Farmer's local knowledge of soil was not significantly related to age, location, or gender in this study. However, knowledge and perceptions of soil fertility were based on observable plant and soil related characteristics namely; soil colour, crop yield, soil water holding/retention capacity, stoniness, difficulty to work soil, type and abundance of indicator weeds, colour of leaves and deficiency symptoms observed on crops, crop growth rate and presence and abundance of soil macro-fauna. Though farmers’ indicators were purely qualitative, it nevertheless was congruent to scientific assessment of fertile or infertile soils in many respects. Reported fertile sites were confirmed to exhibit higher levels of soil N, P, K and organic matter compared to reported infertile sites. It is argued that there is the need to utilize the complementary nature of local and scientific knowledge. To facilitate integration and inclusion of farmer perspectives in the national agricultural development planning and policy formulation processes, the use of truly participatory, gender sensitive, collaborative and capacity-building approaches is required particularly the established rich knowledge base on soils.