African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6693

Full Length Research Paper

The use of scientific and indigenous knowledge in agricultural land evaluation and soil fertility studies of two villages in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  N. N. Buthelezi1*, J. C. Hughes2 and A. T. Modi2
  1Soil Science, School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, South Africa. 2Crop Science, School of Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 04 March 2012
  •  Published: 25 February 2013



Local people and small-scale farmers have knowledge of their lands based on soil and land characteristics that remain largely unknown to the scientific community. It is therefore important for researchers to understand farmers’ knowledge of soil classification and management. To address this, indigenous knowledge was elicited by questionnaires from 59 households in two villages (Ezigeni and Ogagwini), near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. Farmer vernacular soil and land suitability evaluations were compared to scientifically obtained soil and land suitability maps. Yield was used as a quantifiable indicator to test the effect of fertility management practices. It was found that farmers’ soil classification was based mainly on topsoil colour and texture. Slope position was the main factor determining land suitability. Crop yield, crop appearance, natural vegetation, soil colour, soil texture, and mesofauna were used to estimate soil fertility. Despite this, there was a correlation between farmers’ indigenous evaluation and scientific evaluation, implying that there are similarities between the two approaches.


Key words: Local knowledge, scientific knowledge, soil properties, crop indicators, soil fertility.