Empirical evaluation of agricultural sustainability using composite indicators
The aim of this study was to develop a practical methodology for evaluating the sustainability of farms by means of composite indicators, and to apply it to two agricultural systems, the rain-fed agriculture of the Castilla y León countryside and the irrigated systems of the valley of the River Duero. We hope thus to operationalise the concept of sustainability as an element to support the "governance" of this sector. Our methodology is based on calculating 16 sustainability indicators that cover the three components of the concept (economic, social and environmental), and their subsequent aggregation into nine different types of sustainability indices. Our results enable us first to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods used to construct composite sustainability indicators, demonstrating the usefulness of analysing several of these indicators in conjunction, in order to obtain more robust results. They also enable us to visualise farm heterogeneity within a single agricultural system with respect to sustainability as well as to analyse the structural and decision-oriented variables that influence it. Such information could help to improve current agricultural policies (such as income policy, agricultural structure policy and rural development policy), with the aim of improving the sustainability of the sector.
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