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Manuals | July 1, 2022

Understanding Natural Resources

A SMART Skills Manual

Small-scale farmers in developing countries depend heavily on their natural resources: water, soil and the broader ecosystem. They need to use these resources wisely so they can continue to produce crops and raise animals.

This manual shows how field agents, extension workers and program managers can help farmers understand natural resources and how natural resources affect farm production.

The nine lessons, available in English, FrenchSpanish, and Arabic, cover the following topics:

  • Why are natural resources important?
  • The water cycle
  • Managing water
  • Watersheds and watershed management
  • Soil composition
  • Soil fertility and nutrients
  • Plant health
  • Life systems in nature (ecosystems)
  • Sustainable use of natural resources – bringing it all together

Each lesson includes guidelines, field exercises to do with a group of farmers and quizzes to test your understanding. This is one manual in a series on SMART Skills—the skills that field agents need to help farmers in developing countries improve their livelihoods.

This manual focuses on helping farmers understand their natural resources. A companion manual describes how to help them manage these resources in a sustainable way.





Understanding Natural Resources PowerPoint


Exercise 1. Natural resources are managed together
Exercise 2. Viewing soil erosion in runoff water
Exercise 3. The importance of soil cover
Exercise 4. Seek out a problem area in your local watershed
Exercise 5a. Counting soil animals
Exercise 5b. Measuring topsoil depth
Exercise 5c. Determining soil texture
Exercise 6. Using fertilizers
Exercise 7. Local plant health
Exercise 8. Introduction to food webs
Exercise 9a. Ecosystem services
Exercise 9b. Protecting natural resources – today and for the centuries ahead