Staying with metaphors to share our visions of soils and foster dialogue

Just out 30 November 2023
In a recent book, Antonia Taddei and Abigail Fallot list more than 120 metaphors relating to the soil, collected during workshops and interviews in Senegal, Zimbabwe and France.
A soil near Diohine, Senegal, shortly before the rainy season © A. Fallot, CIRAD
A soil near Diohine, Senegal, shortly before the rainy season © A. Fallot, CIRAD

A soil near Diohine, Senegal, shortly before the rainy season © A. Fallot, CIRAD

The authors of a new book, "Collection de métaphores du sol" (Compilation of Soil Metaphors) set out to highlight the wealth of perceptions among farmers, scientists and the general public and encourage discussions of the topic of soils, in the hope of understanding, managing and preserving them in a sustainable way.

A range of perceptions of soils

Soil preservation is a vast field, and is sometimes complex, depending on the observer's point of view. This range of perceptions can have significant consequences in terms of measures taken in favour of soil fertility, equilibria and protection.

According to the United Nations Convention to combat desertification, soil and vegetation degradation had already affected 75% of the planet's land area by 2018: a worrying figure that is likely to reach 90% by 2050.

Soil metaphors for coherent dialogue

In response to this alarming situation, this book's two authors are keen to encourage knowledge sharing and foster dialogue between the various soil stakeholders, to reverse the unsustainable trends that are contributing to desertification. 

Metaphors and the images they convey facilitate communication between individuals from different backgrounds and prompts them to question their perceptions. 

Abigail Fallot and Antonia Taddei are convinced that questioning standpoints in various places and viewing the vast amount of available information with a critical eye can foster more coherent, harmonious dialogue about soils. 

In the runup to the 2024 Paris International Agricultural Show, a web platform specially set up to collect soil metaphors will soon allow anyone and everyone to contribute to supplementing the compilation.

The book is available on line, free of charge.

Taddei Antonia, Fallot Abigail. 2023.
Collection de métaphores du sol
Dormelles: Cabanera, 197 p. ISBN 978-2-9588210-0-5

About the authors

Abigail Fallot trained as an economist and now works for CIRAD, focusing on responses to climate change and working using deliberative methods. As such, she is constantly seeking to characterize social, economic and ecological dynamics, since the interactions between them, on several scales, determine the scope of initiatives for development and for better practice and environmental policy. She has worked on biomass energy in Latin America, and more recently on soils in Senegal and Zimbabwe. 

Antonia Taddei is a playwright and co-director of the Xtnt company, which specializes in multidisciplinary, participatory activities and works to give art a central place in society by generating strong synergies between artistic creation and public issues. She has built a number of innovative artistic programmes, and is currently working on a range of projects combining art, ecology and health, in France, England and Senegal. In particular, she took part in a research project on the use of war metaphors in the field of immunology.