Understanding soils using interdisciplinary methods

Our director Ian Scoones has applied the STEPS pathways approach to understanding soils, for a new article in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 2015 has been named as the International Year of Soils by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

From the abstract:

Soils must be understood from a transdisciplinary perspective, integrating biophysical, social, economic and political understandings. This requires new combinations of methods. This paper introduces the STEPS ‘pathways approach’, which emphasises the importance of ‘framing’ of different options.

Through a case study from Ethiopia, the possibilities of a transdisciplinary analysis of soils are explored. This highlights the importance of investigating the spatial patterning of nutrients in farm landscapes, and the social processes that influence why soils have different levels of fertility, as well as how local dynamics are influenced by wider policy framings.

A set of participatory methods, including farm mapping, landscape level transect walks and biographical analysis of people and places, is discussed. These help broaden out analysis and open up debate, exposing alternative pathways to sustainability.

This article is free to access until 23 October via the link below.

Scoones, I (2015) Transforming soils: transdisciplinary perspectives and pathways to sustainability, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (vol 15)

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