Agriculture is the biggest interface between society, economy and the environment. Sustainably managing agricultural production is a prerequisite of sustainable development. This is particularly recognized in Brazil, the world’s second largest agricultural supplier, and in Switzerland, whose researchers have pioneered the development of sustainability assessment methods for agriculture. Our research project builds on the notion that such methods offer potential beyond their current application in research and monitoring. Sustainable farming is about managing the complexity of one’s farm and production systems with a multi-dimensional, long-term view. We hold that the accomplishment of this demanding task can be supported by using analysis and management tools that help translate sound science into information of practical use to the individual farmer. Our project unitesthe research group “Sustainability assessment” of the School of Agricultural, Forestry and Food Sciences (HAFL) and agri-business experts at the Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz” (ESALQ), two institutions known in their countries to bridge the gap between the science and practice of agriculture. The goal of the cooperation is to contribute to sustainable agriculture by providing methods for measuring and assessing the economic, environmental and social performance of agricultural production systems, particularly in teaching and consultancy contexts. This shall be achieved by (i) gathering knowledge about the state of the art and potential of teaching sustainability assessment to future agricultural professionals, (ii) gaining and evaluating joint experience through the use of the Swiss RISE method on Brazilian farms and (iii) identifying challenges to the use of sustainability assessment in the targeted contexts, as well as science-based approaches to overcome these challenges. Project deliverables include 20 persons trained in and 200 informed about farm sustainability assessment, a Brazilian version of the RISE method, in-depth holistic analyses of ten organic farms and of two crop-livestock systems, and the results of two surveys (on methodological adaptation needs and the potential of sustainability analysis in teaching and consultancy). We intend to unfold leverage beyond the Seed Money Programme by involving further partners in Brazil, Switzerland and other countries. This will be concretized by developing two draft project proposals until December, 2016.
Dr. Jan Hendrik Grenz
Dr. João Martines