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Barnard College

Publication Date

Fall 2018

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Ethnopedology, as a subfield of ethnoecology, is the study of localized symbols and values, knowledge, and practices relating to soils. One key framework for ethnopedological studies is the Kosmos-Corpus-Praxis model, which synthesizes local and traditional ecological into three overlapping, interrelated spheres. Cerro Punta, Chiriquí is the primary vegetable-growing region in Panama, an industry highly dependent on the region’s fertile volcanic soils. Semi-structured interviews (n=8) and soil macrofauna density surveys as an indicator of soil fertility (n=9) were used to gather information regarding producers’ beliefs, knowledge, and decisions about soil fertility.

Among producers in Cerro Punta, religious beliefs and land symbolism shaped understandings of soil fertility and management practices. Practices were also informed by assessments of soil fertility using predominantly qualitative indicators, which showed informal correlation with soil macrofauna density. Although there was some significant difference in macrofauna between conventional and organic sites, methods used to evaluate and manage soil fertility did not vary greatly between the two production methods, with most producers using a variety of indicators and practices to meet their soil fertility needs. More research on the ways in which symbolism and cosmovisions, cognition, and practice interact in localized natural resource management is needed, especially in areas with significant agricultural use such as Cerro Punta.


Agriculture | Family, Life Course, and Society | Place and Environment | Sociology of Culture | Sociology of Religion


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