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