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Main challenges and key features of indicator-based agroecological assessment frameworks in the context of international cooperation

Wiget, Milena; Müller, Adrian and Hilbeck, Angelika (2020) Main challenges and key features of indicator-based agroecological assessment frameworks in the context of international cooperation. Ecology and Society, 25 (3), pp. 1-20.

[thumbnail of wiget-etal-2020-Ecology-and-Society-Vol25-Issue3-Art25.pdf] PDF - English

Document available online at: https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol25/iss3/art25/


Agroecology increasingly gains importance in the discussion about sustainable food systems. To facilitate the transition from conventional farming to agroecological farming, adequate methods and concepts to measure and assess impact and productivity of agroecological farming systems (AFSs) are needed, which consider their multifunctionality and other specific characteristics, here called agroecological sustainability assessment frameworks and tools (ASAFTs). In the past years, many agricultural sustainability assessment tools and frameworks were developed but their suitability and applicability to AFSs was not investigated. To close this knowledge gap, we aimed at identifying, reviewing, and discussing published ASAFTs in the context of international cooperation, providing an overview of the current challenges, needs, and requirements in assessing AFSs at the farm level with the means of indicators. Desktop and scientific database research was conducted to identify and discuss published indicator-based ASAFTs at the farm level. The analysis was based on the following four framework elements that the authors considered to be essential for ASAFTs: (1) the adaptability to local conditions all over the world, (2) the involvement of farmers in the development process, (3) the consideration of the multiple functions of an agroecosystem in the definition and measurement of its productivity, and (4) the accounting for interactions between multiple agroecosystem functions and their measurement. Only a few analyzed assessment frameworks at least partly consider these essential elements and were designed specifically for AFSs. However, our study also showed that these frameworks were (1) restricted in their geographical application scope, (2) quite heterogeneous and barely comparable, and (3) based on productivity indicators that do not fully capture the multiple functions of AFSs. Therefore, we identified the need for the development of appropriate agroecological productivity indicators and common standard or reference frameworks for assessing AFSs, which will be crucial for upscaling agroecology.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:agroecological assessment frameworks, agroecological transition, farmers' involvement, indicator interaction, multifunctionality, Abacus, FiBL10081
Agrovoc keywords:
food systems
Subjects: Food systems > Food security, food quality and human health
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Society > Agri-food policy
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability > Sustainability assessment
Deposited By: Muller, Adrian
ID Code:38526
Deposited On:27 Oct 2020 12:13
Last Modified:15 Mar 2022 08:15
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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