Soils, Science and Community ActioN (SoilSCAN): A citizen science tool to empower community-led land management change in East Africa
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Pastoralist communities worldwide face complex challenges regarding food and feed productivity. Primary production systems are under stress, nutritional choices are changing and the relationship between development and agriculture is undergoing profound transformation. Under increasing pressure from climate and land use change, East African agro-pastoral systems are approaching a tipping point in terms of land degradation. There is an urgent need for evidence-led sustainable land management interventions to reverse degradation of natural resources that support food and water security. A key barrier, however, is a lack of high spatial resolution soil health data wherein collecting such information for each individual community is beyond their means. In this context, we tested whether bridging such data gaps could be achieved through a coordinated programme at the boundary between participation and citizen science. Key outputs included a community-led trial of a hand-held soil scanner, which highlighted a range of positive benefits and practical challenges in using this technology in this context, with identification of some potential solutions; and a targeted soil organic matter and nutrient status dataset in a small catchment-based community setting. The results show that if the practical challenges can be resolved, use of portable soil scanner technology has the potential to fill key knowledge gaps and thereby improve resilience to the threat of land degradation through locally responsive farmer and community decision-making.
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