The general objective of this project is to improve the scientific capability to evaluate ex ante the environmental sustainability of agricultural systems.
The specific objectives are as follows:
* To define a detailed conceptual framework and methodological protocol to guide the comparison of different methods to measure and evaluate the sustainability of agricultural systems, across agroecosystems and socioeconomic environments.
* To measure and evaluate the sustainability of selected agricultural systems in each country, using several qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
* To compare the results obtained with each method in each agricultural system.
* To disseminate the resulting methodologies and to support their integration into the regular programs of the participating institutions and other research organisations.
The environmental sustainability of agricultural systems representative of major ecoregions such as the Semi-Arid Tropics, the Low Humid Tropics, the Argentinean Pampas, the irrigated valleys of Temperate Mediterranean climate and the Andean highlands, will be evaluated. The work carried out in this project should result in a practical and cost-effective method to evaluate ex ante the environmental sustainability of improved agricultural systems. Although the work will be carried out in only a few countries, a wide range of ecosystems and socioeconomic environments will be represented, so that the results should be widely applicable. The resulting methods should help researchers and development and policy agencies, operationalise the concept of sustainable agricultural development.
The key activities envisaged are:
* Standardisation of existing data sets from Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru, according to a common conceptual and methodological framework agreed upon by the six participating institutes.
* Integration of the standardised data sets in a distributed data base in the Internet, using a "groupware" software.
* Analysing the sustainability of the agricultural systems from which the data sets were derived, using two qualitative and two quantitative methods (Participatory Rural Appraisal, Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Knowledge Systems, Multiple Objective Programming and Farm Simulation Modelling).
* Comparing the results of the analyses conducted with each method, and finding opportunities for their integration in a common methodology.
* Dissemination of partial and final results by means of electronic publications in the Internet, journals, presentations in scientific meetings and newsletters.