A method for constructing an index of sustainable intensification within the developed country context
A number of influential policy circles have championed sustainable intensification as an approach to meet the challenge of a growing population under increasing land constraints. Various definitions exist for sustainable intensification, but most have been focused on the environment and on the needs of developing countries. Fewer studies have applied the concept to developed economies, where the pursuit of output increases is less justified, nor extended the definition to include social, economic and ethical parameters. This paper develops an approach to defining and measuring sustainable intensification on a regional basis. We test this approach using data from the Farm Account Data Network for a balanced panel of 42 beef farms within Scotland. Indicators of economic, ecosystem and social parameters are derived from this database and measured over the period 2000-2010. These variables are objectively weighted within an overall index using Positive Matrix Factorisation (PMF), a form of Factor Analysis which constrains results to positive loadings and offers less ambiguity with relation to rotation. We find little change in Scottish Beef farming with respect to Sustainable Intensification, which reflects both a policy which has not supported intensification or output expansion over this period, nor has it increased the economic, social or ecosystem sustainability over this period. We argue that regions should adopt a definition of sustainable intensification that i) is specific to the production trajectories of that region and offers clarity within estimation and measurement. The conceptualisation of sustainable intensification along these lines would, we recommend, allow key members of the food supply chain to develop specific solutions to avoid future projected problems in food production.
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