After half a century of failed soil and water conservation projects in tropical developing countries, technical specialists and policy makers are reconsidering their strategy. It is increasingly recognised that the land users have valuable environmental knowledge themselves. This review explores two hypotheses: first, that much can be learned from previously ignored indigenous soil and water conservation (ISWC) practices; second, that ISWC can often act as a suitable starting point for the development of technologies and programmes. However, information on ISWC is patchy and scattered. Many ancient, derelict systems are better described than traditions which still persist today. ISWC has been most commonly developed under dry and marginal conditions, and/or on steep hillsides. Sustained population pressure has often tended to stimulate ISWC. There is a need for more incorporation of ISWC into resource conservation programmes: many projects have ignored local traditions to their detriment. It is widely agreed that further study and research on ISWC is required and justified as a logical starting point towards developing adoptable and sustainable soil and water conservation systems for small-scale farmers.
Land Degradation & Development (1994) 5 (4) 293-314 [DOI: 10.1002/ldr.3400050406]