This report evaluates soil conditions in the communities of Juntas, Tojo and Chorcoya Avilés in southwest Tarija, southern Bolivia, from the point of view of local people. It determines local knowledge about the different categories of soil or 'land', their preferred uses and the way that the different soils are managed by the inhabitants. People classify soils by way of colour, texture, consistency, topography, soil water conditions and best use. Farmer-conceived soil classifications were established in each community. Soils knowledge varies from household to household, and those who know most have been identified as potential communicators of soils knowledge within the communities. Local people recognise that soil and water can and does carry away earth from their plots, but do not consider soil erosion as a significant constraint affecting production. Whilst there are areas where people have noticed that soil fertility has reduced or 'the earth has become tired' as a result of intensive production, there are also areas where people have perceived improvements in soil quality resulting from application of manure and river sedimentation during floods, particularly in Juntas and Tojo. Areas where soils are under-utilised were identified by local people and technical staff, and adjustments in use suggested - in Chorcoya there is an area of fertile soils formed on recent fluviolacustrine deposits with potential for more cultivation, in Tojo and Juntas there are fluvial soils with the potential for growing trees and producing crops. Soil analyses highlighted low levels of organic matter in most of the cultivated soils. Techniques to raise soil organic matter were identified for discussion in community meetings: better gathering and application of manure, composting, green manuring with local and introduced species.
Fairbairn, J. (2001), The collection and application of local soils knowledge in southern Bolivia. Leeds: School of Geography, Leeds University, UK, 38 pp.