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Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management

Turning Zambia Orange

This July, I spent a few weeks in South Africa and Zambia. Dr. Edwards and his colleagues work with African entrepreneurs through a Department of State grant, and I assisted during their time at OSU. A part of my trip was following up with our South African participants. The next component of the experience was funded by my RIATA Fellowship.  I visited Navaruli Village in Eastern Zambia. This work was in collaboration with OSU alum Evan Brothers. Evan is working in Zambia as a Peace Corps volunteer. We met local farmers, and learned about their soil and farm management practices. This is part of Evan’s goal to help them protect soil health.

We also collected soil from several local fields under different traditional and improved management practices and local grassland soil to assess nutrients and microbial abundance.  These analyses will help us understand how local farming practices influence soil fertility and microbial communities to determine overall soil health. Personally, the trip put many parts of my OSU education into a deeper context.

I find social questions are also of great concern.  What causes a farmer to adopt new methods?  Can we make soil health meaningful when land tenure and security are not favorable?  When working with a poorly educated population, how do we approach any of these scientific principles?  We will be monitoring and evaluating these ecological, agricultural, and social aspects throughout the next two years.

When working in the fields, we had many village children follow us and ask why we were collecting dirt.  We showed them how we carefully take different samples.  We told them it was headed to America to be tested.  They might not have understood why we did all this, but they were definitely happy to be part of the fieldwork.