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First of all I should like to express my gratitude to ORSTOM, which encouraged me to put to good use the knowledge French-speaking research experts have gained over the past thirty years in the field of soil conservation, water management and fertilization.

Next, I should like to thank David Sanders and Jean Claude Griesbach of the FAO Soil Resources Management and Conservation Service for their encouragement throughout the preparation of this work.

A dozen or so colleagues agreed to read the first draft, and I am particularly grateful to them for encouraging me to revise it in order to complete, correct and expand it. They all provided me with major ideas:

- Jacques Arrivets, CIRAD agricultural scientist, for his thoughts on the aim and presentation of the work;

- Christophe De Jaegher, a young agricultural scientist working in Peru under an external aid programme, for details of traditional Peruvian soil preparation methods;

- Georges De Noni and Marc Viennot, my colleagues at ORSTOM, for a whole chapter on erosion in the Ecuadorian Andes;

- Jean-Marie Fotsing, a Cameroonian geographer, lecturer at Yaoundé University, for a chapter on Bamiléké hedge systems (bocage);

- Bernard Heusch, agricultural scientist, for his vast experience of soil conservation problems throughout the world;

- Charles Lilin, forestry expert at the French Ministry of the Environment, for a chapter on sociological aspects of erosion crises;

- Raymond Mura, forestry expert with CEMAGREF, for his experience of rehabilitation strategies for mountainous terrain;

- Jean François Ouvry, agricultural scientist and director of a regional association for land improvement, for a summary of the work of a whole INRA team on large-scale agricultural planning in northern France;

- Chris Reij, geographer at the Free University of Amsterdam, for many ideas on traditional methods of water management and soil conservation;

- Bernard Smolikowski, agricultural expert working in Haiti under an external aid programme, and Michel Brochet, Director of ESAT in Montpellier, for a whole chapter on Haiti;

- Christian Valentin, of ORSTOM, for details of soil surface structures;

- François Ségala, agricultural scientist, and Jean Claude Griesbach, geographer, technical officers in FAO's Soil Resources Management and Conservation Service, for constructive criticism and invaluable support in completing the work.

I should also like to acknowledge my debt to the young research scientists who have carried out their thesis work under my direction or verified certain land husbandry ideas in the field François Ndayizigiyé, Vincent Nyamulinda and Leonard Sekayange in Rwanda, Vincent Ngarambé and Théodomir Rishirumuhirwa in Burundi, Mourad Arabi, Morsli Boutkhil, Mohammed Mazour, Rachid Chebbani and other colleagues from the INRF erosion team in Algeria, F.X. Masson, Djamel Boudjemline, Marie Antoinette Raheliarisoa in France, and Zacheé Boli and Bep Aziem, IRA soil and agricultural scientists in Cameroon.

I cannot close these acknowledgements without recalling all I owe to the "elders" who patiently initiated and guided me throughout my career: in France, Bernard Heusch, Frederic Fournier, Claude Charreau and Georges Aubert; in the English-speaking world, Norman Hudson, Walter Wischmeier, Donald Meyer and William Moldenhauer.

Finally, my thanks go to Mme Rigollet and Chrissi Smith-Redfern for tirelessly typing, correcting and editing the manuscript, and Mr Mazzei for drawing the figures so well.

Most of the photographs have been taken from my own collection. Other sources have been cited in the text, and I am grateful for their assistance.

Ideas do not belong to any one person, but are the fruit of a long period of gestation and the encounter between people and a range of environments and socio-economic conditions. May all those who have played a part in this long labour be included in this expression of gratitude.

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