By: Cesar Botero

Roots allow plants to hold on to soil in the face of potential risks that may threaten them; including winds and flooding and even drought. By embracing soils, roots protect plants from likely degradation processes.

CIAT, acting through its Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes research area, joins Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Caritas Santa Ana, and PRISMA, in a landscape restoration project titled “RAÍCES” (Roots), with the aim of building awareness among farmers about the importance of looking after soils as a NON-renewable resource against advanced degradation processes, by helping them to better understand soil processes and dynamics.

Within that framework, a training course on soil sampling was carried out last 30–31 August, with participation from 15 technicians from CRS, Caritas Santa Ana, AUSOLES, San Raymundo Cooperative, and El Jícaro Cooperative in the Ahuachapán area, western El Salvador. Besides teaching the methodology, the course aimed to share knowledge to support decision making during the project’s initial stage, when soil samples are collected for soil characterization. “It’s about learning the purpose of this activity, so they can disseminate that knowledge among the farmers they visit,” said César Botero, CIAT research assistant and the course instructor.

Upon completion of the course, the trained technicians will cover an area of about 21.800 ha and collect some 280 soil samples from strategic sites. After analyzing the samples in a laboratory, the results will be used in a digital soil mapping (DSM) model to generate high-resolution soil maps of Ahuachapán to assess its agroecological conditions (soils and water resources). This effort aims to contribute to a comprehensive planning process of agricultural landscape restoration focused on increasing agricultural productivity and income and improving management of water resources and other ecosystem services.

It is envisaged that, as farmers become more familiar with the importance of soils, they will learn to protect them, since we protect what is familiar to us. The concept behind this activity is to act like roots and hold farmers tight in the face of potential risks threatening their agricultural production and potential.

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