Swiss College of Agriculture, Zollikofen

RISE – A tool for a holistic sustainability assessment at the farm level

Whereas the liberalisation of the world markets seems to exert today the greatest pressure on development, sustainable production is the most important leading principle. Numerous studies have been conducted to evaluate the degree of sustainability on a national and local level and broadly accepted indicators have also been recommended. However, only little information for the precise assessment of a single farm is available. The present paper explains first, why sustainability is not a value on its own. Then it introduces an instrument called “Response-Inducing Sustainability Evaluation” (RISE), which allows for easy assessment at the farm level. It is system-oriented and offers a holistic approach for advice, education and planning. The model covers ecological, economical and social aspects by defining 12 indicators for Energy, Water, Soil, Biodiversity, Emission Risk, Pest and Disease Management, Waste and Residues, Cash Flow, Farm Income, Investments, Local Economy, and Social Situation. For each indicator the “Driving force” (D) and the “State” (S) are assessed (values from 0 to 100). For example for Pest and Disease Management, D is the result of the amount of active ingredient times the risk factor of the applied pesticide and S is the result of an assessment of the applied plant protection system. The Sustainability Degree (SD) is the result of S minus D (values of -100 to + 100, single values that are higher than +10 are considered sustainable, the entire system is considered sustainable when no values are lower than -10). The results are summarized and displayed in a sustainability polygon. The instrument RISE was tested and used for evaluating very different farms in Brazil, China and Switzerland. Results are considered relevant with regard to the objective stated. Further testing, adaptation and fine-tuning is envisioned.

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