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Family farm sustainability in southern Brazil: An application of agri-environmental indicators

  • Fernandes, Lúcio André de O.
  • Woodhouse, Philip J.
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    This paper investigates the sustainability of agroecological and conventional agriculture on small farms in southern Brazil. A methodology was developed to identify agri-environmental indicators of the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the farming systems. The criteria used for selecting sustainability indicators were policy relevance, measurability, validity/analytical soundness, level of aggregation/communication to the user. Based on these criteria indicators were selected for natural, financial, physical, human, and social capital assets. The research identified 'external' indicators, those relevant to researcher/policy makers, and 'internal' indicators, those relevant to the resource users. The two sets were combined and data relevant to the selected indicators were collected from secondary sources and also direct from farmers through a small-scale sample survey. After analysing the data, indicators were selected for each capital asset to generate a multi-criteria assessment of sustainability at three scales: farm, local and regional. The analysis provided evidence of ecological and social advantages of ecological farms, but financial disadvantages associated with the cost of alternative marketing arrangements for agroecological produce. The paper draws conclusions about the usefulness of indicators in the assessment of farming sustainability and possibilities for wider application.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 66 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 2-3 (June)
    Pages: 243-257

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:66:y:2008:i:2-3:p:243-257
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    1. Herendeen, Robert A. & Wildermuth, Todd, 2002. "Resource-based sustainability indicators: Chase County, Kansas, as example," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 243-257, August.
    2. Rasul, Golam & Thapa, Gopal B., 2003. "Sustainability Analysis of Ecological and Conventional Agricultural Systems in Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(10), pages 1721-1741, October.
    3. Rudd, Murray A., 2004. "An institutional framework for designing and monitoring ecosystem-based fisheries management policy experiments," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 109-124, January.
    4. Ellis, Frank, 2000. "Rural Livelihoods and Diversity in Developing Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296966.
    5. Hezri, Adnan A. & Dovers, Stephen R., 2006. "Sustainability indicators, policy and governance: Issues for ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 86-99, November.
    6. Pieri, C. & Dumanski, J. & Hamblin, A. & Young, A., 1995. "Land Quality Indicators," World Bank - Discussion Papers 315, World Bank.
    7. Belcher, K. W. & Boehm, M. M. & Fulton, M. E., 2004. "Agroecosystem sustainability: a system simulation model approach," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 225-241, February.
    8. Reed, Mark S. & Fraser, Evan D.G. & Dougill, Andrew J., 2006. "An adaptive learning process for developing and applying sustainability indicators with local communities," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(4), pages 406-418, October.
    9. Pervanchon, F. & Bockstaller, C. & Girardin, P., 2002. "Assessment of energy use in arable farming systems by means of an agro-ecological indicator: the energy indicator," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 149-172, May.
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