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Revista Ciencias Técnicas Agropecuarias

versão On-line ISSN 2071-0054

Rev Cie Téc Agr vol.31 no.4 San José de las Lajas oct.-dez. 2022  Epub 12-Dez-2022



Indicators of Agroecological Management of Urban and Periurban Agricultural Soils in Caracas, Venezuela

Sol Santander MendozaI  *

Isabel Ramón y RiveraII

IInstituto de Suelos, Boyeros, La Habana, Cuba.

IIUniversidad Bolivariana de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela.


Urban and periurban agriculture has been recognized as a fundamental strategy in achieving food security, which makes necessary a characterization of such systems and the implementation of evaluation systems of their sustainability, which lead to their more efficient management. Proposals are presented for indicator systems related to soil resource management, built in a participatory manner, in two peri-urban and one urban productive areas. From the previous analysis of each agroecosystem, the SWOT matrix was built and the evaluation of the soil profile was carried out. Once the information obtained by producers, students and teachers was analyzed using the MESMIS reference framework, the farm design was carried out and the system of indicators proposed for its management was established.

Keywords:  Sustainability Assessment; Food Security; Participatory Action Research


The terms "Urban Agriculture (UA) and Peri-Urban Agriculture" (PA) were proposed in 1999 by the FAO to describe "agricultural practices that are carried out within the limits or in the vicinity of cities throughout the world and include the production , and in some cases the processing of agricultural, fishing and forestry products", which are characterized by being practiced on small surfaces (plots, orchards, margins, terraces, containers) destined for the production of crops and the raising of small livestock for own consumption or for sale in neighborhood markets" (Mougeot, 2006; FAO, 2007; Morán-Alonso, 2010; Ribeiro et al., 2015).

Peri-urban agriculture, specifically, has a broader connotation, and can range from intensive and subsistence mini-agriculture to commercial agriculture carried out in an intermediate space between the city a (FAO, 2007).

At present, the importance of vegetable production in urban and peri-urban agriculture has been highlighted as an important source of vitamins and micronutrients and its easy access to the urban population belonging to the lowest socioeconomic strata, aspects that favors the achievement of food sovereignty (Zaar, 2011; Alemán, 2019). For this reason, it is necessary to advance policies to promote and support this socio-productive activity, encouraging self-management and the empowerment of organized communities from both a legal and administrative points of view, facilitating access to technical advice, institutional support and microcredit (Hermi, 2011; Degenhart, 2016; Bellenda et al., 2018; Alemán, 2019).

In this sense, it is essential to advance in the characterization of these agroecosystems and generate management mechanisms that allow increasing the efficiency of these production systems, and that include their evaluation. Therefore, the objective of this work was the participatory design of indicator systems that allow evaluating the management of soil resources in three agroecosystems located in the city of Caracas and its surroundings.


This research was carried out in three productive areas, one of them located in the city of Caracas (“Comunidad El Porvenir”, Catia, Distrito Capital), corresponding to an urban agroecosystem and two in its surroundings (“Finca Daktari”, El Hatillo and "Comunidad Las Cadenas", Los Teques, both in the State of Miranda), corresponding to peri-urban agroecosystems.

Participatory action research (PAR) methods were used in all cases. To design the indicator system, the MESMIS framework (Framework for the Evaluation of Natural Resource Management Systems incorporating Sustainability Indicators) was used as a methodological reference (Astier et al., 2008). This system proposes a continuous evaluation cycle where the system of indicators allows monitoring management measures (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1 Evaluation cycle. MESMIS framework Masera et al. (2008)

In the application of MESMIS, the "critical points" of the agroecosystem are identified, which constitute aspects of it that limit the scope of the sustainability attributes (Productivity, Diversity, Equity, Stability and Resilience). In this way, the indicators that will constitute the evaluation system allow quantifying the progress towards achieving the sustainability of the agroecosystem expressed in terms of overcoming its "critical points".

On the other hand, SWOT matrices Geilfus (2002) were also made jointly by researchers, professors, students and producers to include sociocultural and economic aspects. Since the objective of this analysis was centered on the soil resource, the description of a representative profile was also made in each of the production spaces, in order to identify limiting factors in production from its state.

With the data obtained, a farm design proposal was carried out, also in a participatory manner, accompanied by its respective system of indicators, with the intention of converting the latter into an effective management system for the soils of the agroecosystem, which allows the evaluation of the production process and subsequent management and design adjustments.

In Figure 2, the work scheme developed is shown.

FIGURE 2 Scheme of work developed for the construction of indicator systems. 


Case 1. “El Porvenir” Community, Catia, Sucre Parish, Libertador Municipality. Capital district.

This agroecosystem is located in one of the areas with the highest population density in the city of Caracas. Table 1 shows the SWOT matrix (Weaknesses-Opportunities-Strengths-Threats) carried out in a participatory manner.

TABLE 1 SWOT Matrix (“El Porvenir” Community, Catia) 

Water availability.
Seedbeds and nurseries established.
Vermiculturist and composter established.
High diversity of crops.
Knowledge acquired.
High participation and interest in the training workshops
Physical and biological degradation of the soil.
Seed deficiency.
Insufficient irrigation equipment. Dispersion in tasks.
Difficulty in unifying management criteria.
Legal framework that favors agricultural activity.
Institutional support (Ministry of Agriculture and Bolivarian University of Venezuela).
Possibilities of invasion in the plots.
Personal insecurity.
Difficulty in weed control.
High presence of pests and diseases in the plots.

In this case, the main problems identified by producers in relation to soil resource management are the scarcity of organic matter and biodiversity, as well as the high presence of pests and diseases, which directly affects the decrease in vegetable production.

This perception of the producers was confirmed when characterizing the soil profile, where a reduced depth and an A horizon with little organic matter and poor aggregation were found, as well as marked drainage problems evidenced by the presence of mottles in the BC horizon. That characterization is expressed in Table 2 and in Figure 3.

TABLE 2 Characterization of the soil profile (“El Porvenir Community”, Catia) 

Horizon Depth Borders Structure Aggregate size Degree of aggregation Color Texture
A 1 - 12 cm - Granular Fine Weak 7.5 YR 4/3 Clayey Sandy
B 13 - 26 cm Definite Platy Medium Weak 2.5 Y 5/4 Clayey
BC 27 - 33 cm Diffuse Platy Medium Weak 2.5 Y5/3 (mottled 5 Y 5/1) Sandy
C 34 - 52 cm Diffuse Massive - - Color 2.5 YR 6/3 Sandy

FIGURE 3 Characterization of soil profile in “El Porvenir” Community, Caracas, Capital District. 

Based on this information, the farm design and the management plan were carried out, and using the MESMIS reference framework according to Astier et al. (2008), the "critical points" of the agroecosystem in relation to the soil resource were identified and the system of indicators to evaluate its management was established and it is shown in Table 3.

TABLE 3 System of indicators (“El Porvenir” Community, Catia) 

Sustainability attributes "Critical points" diagnosed in the system Proposed indicators
Stability Compaction Soil penetration.
Root length.
Resilience Poor drainage Infiltration rate.
Biodiversity Little biodiversity Macrofauna observed.
Stability Severe damage from pests and diseases Percentage of affectation of plants by pests and diseases.
Stability High number of weeds Visual indicators of nutrient deficiency.
Crop growth curve.
Resilience Little organic matter Organic matter (as property inferred).
Productivity Regular yield Agronomic yield

Case 2. “Daktari” Farm, El Hatillo Municipality

This productive space corresponds to a peri-urban environment. At the time of this study, there was only vegetable garden production in beds in a small area, as well as a seedbed and nursery, but the community intended to expand and diversify such production, so the agroecosystem analysis was carried out in function of this purpose. The SWOT matrix obtained is shown in Table 4.

TABLE 4 SWOT Matrix (“Daktari Farm”, El Hatillo Municipality, Miranda State) 

Soil quality and appropriate climate.
Water availability.
Seedbed and nursery established.
Extension of virgin areas.
Lack of proper tools.
Lack of composter and vermiculturist.
Insufficient irrigation equipment.
Dispersion in tasks.
Little community involvement.
National and municipal legal framework that favors agricultural activity.
Institutional support (MPPA - UBV).
Beliefs associated with the agroecological model.
Possibilities of invasion due to property conflicts.
Difficulty in weed control.
High presence of pests in harvested vegetables.

Table No. 5 shows the characterization of the soil profile, corresponding to one of the hillside areas where no agricultural activities have been carried out. The presence of an O horizon and good structure stands out, as well as evidence of biological activity (presence of deep root systems). Figure 4 shows the soil profile of "Daktari" Farm, El Hatillo, Miranda State.

TABLE 5 Characterization of the soil profile. (“Daktari” Farm) 

Horizon Depth Borders Structure Aggregate size Degree of aggregation Color Texture
O 1-7 cm - Granular Coarse Strong 10YR 2/2 Loamy
A 8-22 cm Definite Granular Medium Strong 7.5YR 3/4 Loamy Clayey
E 23 - 30 cm Definite Single grain - - 10YR 5/6 Sandy
B 31 - 49 cm Definite Granular Medium Moderate 7.5 YR 4/6 Sandy Clayey
BC 50 - 63 cm Diffuse Platy Medium Moderate 10 YR 5/4 Sandy Clayey
C 64 - 85 cm Diffuse Platy Medium Moderate 10 YR 5/4 Sandy

FIGURE 4 Soil profile of the “Daktari” Farm, El Hatillo, Miranda State. 

From the analysis of these data, the critical points and the system of indicators were established, as shown in Table 6.

TABLE 6 System of indicators “Daktari” Farm, El Hatillo, Miranda State 

Sustainability attributes “Critical points” diagnosed in the system Indicators proposed
Resilience High number of weeds. Weeds/m2
Stability Severe damage from pests and diseases. Percentage of affectation of plants by pests and diseases
Productivity Irregular crop development. Visual indicators of nutrient deficiency.
Productivity Regular yield Crop growth curve.
Agronomic yield
Resilience (*) Need to preserve organic horizon and physical properties of soil Organic matter (as property inferred).
Apparent density. Porosity analysis

Case 3. “Las Cadenas” Community. Los Teques, Miranda State.

This community is also located in a peri-urban environment, and it is a productive space associated with a cooperative made up of community residents with the aim of achieving organic production. This plot has been previously subjected to conventional management and is surrounded by other plots dedicated to the cultivation of vegetables and flowers, with a high application of agrochemicals. The SWOT matrix obtained in a participatory manner is presented in Table No. 7

TABLE 7 SWOT Matrix (“Las Cadenas” Community, Guaicaipuro Municipality, Estado Miranda) 

Soil quality and appropriate climate.
Water availability.
Institutional support from INTEVEP Knowledge acquired.
Lack of proper tools.
Seed deficiency.
Insufficient working hours.
Absence of seedbeds and nursery.
Lack of irrigation equipment.
Dispersion in tasks.
Little participation of some students.
Support of the established cooperative.
National legal framework that favors agricultural activity.
Knowledge of the community by students.
Ease of access by public transport.
Group cohesion.
Agroecological ignorance of the community.
Possibilities of invasion in the plots.
Indiscriminate use of agrochemicals in neighboring plots.
Difficulty in weed control.
High presence of pests in the plots.

Table No. 8 presents the description of the soil profile, highlighting the coloration observed in A and AB horizons, which shows a lack of organic matter. The A horizon, for its part, shows signs of compaction and loss of structure. The B horizon presented artifacts of anthropic origin. Such characteristics, together with the limitations evidenced in the SWOT matrix, were considered in the farm design and the indicator system.

Figure 5 shows the soil profile of “Las Cadenas” Community, Miranda State.

TABLE 8 Description of the soil profile (“Las Cadenas” Community) 

Horizon Depth Borders Structure Aggregate size Degree of aggregation Color Texture
A 1 -18 cm - Massive - - 2.5Y 4/2 Silty clay loam
AB 19 - 47cm Definite Granular Very fine Moderate 2.5 Y 4/4 Sandy loam
B 48 - 66 cm Diffuse Platy Very fine Strong 2.5Y 5/4 Sandy
BC 67 - 83 cm Diffuse Platy Fine Strong 2.5 Y 4/4 Sandy
C 84 - 94 cm Diffuse Platy Fine Weak 2.5 Y 5/4 Sandy

FIGURE 5 Soil profile of “Las Cadenas” Community, Miranda State. 

As in the previous cases, after analyzing the DOFA matrix and the soil profile, the system of indicators was built in a participatory manner (Table 9).

TABLE 9 System of Indicators for "Las Cadenas" Community. 

Sustainability attribute “Critical points” diagnosed in the system Indicators proposed
Resilience Loss of soil structure Structure.
% of stable aggregates.
Resilience Compaction Apparent density.
Porosity Analysis
Biodiversity Low biodiversity in the soil Soil macrofauna.
Radical biomass
Stability High number of weeds Weeds/m2
Stability Indiscriminate use of agrochemicals in adjacent plots Percentage of affectation of plants by pests and diseases.
Insect Biodiversity Index


The results of this work reveal the need to establish clear management mechanisms for producers through the participatory evaluation of their resources and the application of the information obtained through the farm design and the construction of indicator systems, specific for each agroecosystem. Such instruments will allow increasing productive efficiency and enhancing the performance of urban and periurban agroecosystems by focusing management on overcoming the deficient aspects identified through the "critical points", favoring in such systems the integration of methods and the dialogue of knowledge, in order to achieve simplicity and applicability in them, with the purpose of increasing their sustainability.


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Received: January 05, 2022; Accepted: September 14, 2022

*Author for correspondence: Sol Santander Mendoza, e-mail:

Sol Santander-Mendoza, Investigadora, Lic. en Biología. MSc. En Agroecología. Esp. Recuperación de Suelos, Instituto de Suelos. Boyeros, La Habana, Cuba,

Isabel Ramón-Rivera, Lic., en Geoquímica, Profesora Auxiliar del Programa de Formación de Grado en Gestión ambiental, Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela,

The authors of this work declare no conflict of interests.

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS: Conceptualization: S. Santander, I. Ramón. Data curation: S. Santander, I. Ramón.. Formal analysis: S. Santander, I. Ramón.. Investigation: S. Santander, I. Ramón.. Methodology: S. Santander. Supervision: S. Santander, I. Ramón.. Roles/Writing, original draft: S. Santander, I. Ramón.. Writing, review & editing: I. Ramón.

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