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New Research Paper

New 05/04/2018
Sustainability assessment. An adaptive low-input tool applied to the management of agroecosystems.

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In the past 10 years researchers have been pointing out that sustainability needs to abridge the gap between theory and practice. This has been translated in the development of several sustainability assessment tools (life cycle assessment, ecological footprint, environmental cost-benefit analysis, etc.). However, few of them are adaptive and flexible enough to be both applied and driven at local level in developing countries. Aiming to address these issues and in the frame of United Nations “Sustainable Development Goals” that highlight agriculture as a central target, the Sustainability assessment Adaptive and Low-input Tool (SALT) to assess Conventional (CS) and alternative (AS) maize management systems in Jalisco, México.



Agriculture is a key sector in going towards sustainability. It works as a hub between social, institutional, economic and environmental dimensions. An international recognition has risen on how efforts must be directed to sustainable agriculture if current challenges of soil degradation, climate change and population growth are to be overcome. This is translated in the need for means to assess and evaluate progress (or the lack of) towards sustainable agriculture. Although literature on assessment methods for the matter is abundant, a research gap is found on tools suitable to the local context in developing countries like Mexico, where data and skills availability greatly contrast between regions and municipalities. Aiming to bridge this gap, the Sustainability assessment Adaptive and Low-input Tool (SALT) is presented. Conducted analysis focused on contrasting two crop management systems in western Mexico: conventional, the most common in the region; and alternative, relative to farmers transitioning towards sustainable agriculture. A four-step process was followed: 1) substitute indicators were derived on field through participatory workshops, interviews and field trips; 2) analyzing the impact of maize management systems in the region and determining factors that can trigger tangible changes on the behavior of the system; 3) integrating this analysis and a sustainability framework to build up the SALT; 4) application of the tool and interpretation of the results. Sustainability is constantly evolving as an approach, but must keep strengthening practical aspects. Therefore, assessment tools should be tailored to allow an adaptive application and interpretation.

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Ph.D. Alejandra Calleros-Islas, collaborator at the UNESCO Chair on Sustainability at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), has published the paper “Sustainability assessment. An adaptive low-input tool applied to the management of agroecosystems in Mexico” in the journal Ecological Indicators. The paper is currently in press and is available online since March 7th 2018.

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Catedra UNESCO de Sostenibilitat