Researcher Diaries: monitoring soil health in Togo
01.10.2021 The latest Researcher Diary features a post from Célia Bühler, a BFH-HAFL bachelor’s student in International Agriculture.
On this day of my field assignment, Emile, a fellow student, and I went together to the field to collect auger soil samples in the village of Donomadé in Southern Togo. In this village, two sister NGOs, “Happy Togo” and “Étoile Verte”, have established and support a model farm (FeMoDo) to promote agroecological practices. As a young agriculture student and native of the village, Emile is actively involved in the project.
Auger soil sampling allows the description of the soil based on different parameters such as soil horizons, texture and pH. Unfortunately, on that day, I forgot to bring the plastic sheet to deposit the soil samples on. After a brief reflexion, Emile took his machete and cut a banana tree leaf. Local and biodegradable, it did the job perfectly. Field work is always about improvisation, adjustments, flexibility and creativity. While this is true for every type of field work, it is even more the case in the context of developing countries, where resources and material may not always be easily available.
The aim of my bachelor’s thesis is to develop and initiate a long-term survey to measure and monitor soil health on the model farm FeMoDo, and to compare it with plots that are cultivated with traditional methods in Togo. I have tested different tools and methods in order to keep the most adequate ones. For me, the term “adequate” means that it works in the tropics and is replicable, that material is accessible, etc. Working in tandem with Emile has been very enriching for both of us. He appreciated learning practical methods such as hand texturing, as he does not have this opportunity in his studies. For his part, he shared with me precious insights into the local culture, the local crops and farming techniques, and helped me a lot with translations.
The project described in the diary is implemented by the Togolese NGO Étoile Verte and the Swiss NGO Happy Togo.
The Researcher Diaries series provides photo snapshots and testimonials from researchers and students participating in BFH-HAFL and partner projects in the field all over the world.