Existing practices employed by farmers provide a potentially valuable source of information for the introduction of soil and water conservation measures. Capturing such information requires a farmer-oriented approach, with alternative, low cost, rapid methods for the collection of biophysical data. Using data collected by Bolivian professionals during a workshop, this paper examines two indigenous practices applied to clear stony hill land for initial cultivation: stone boundary bunds and within-field piles of stones. Clearing stones from the land (the \"habilitation\" of land) enables crop production, plowing of the land, and use of furrow irrigation. Boundary bunds, although better at reducing erosion rates and retaining sediment in the field, are rejected by some farmers in preference for piles of stones, which entail a smaller loss in crop area and easier access to the field. The findings of the study are used to identify opportunities and constraints for the successful introduction of soil conservation practices and to suggest explanations for the lack of spontaneous uptake of stone-faced terraces that have been promoted to farmers in the locality.
Mountain Research and Development (1999) 19 (3) 235-240