Knowledge for better food systems

New indicators from World Resources Institute on sustainable agriculture

This working paper, discussing indicators for sustainable agriculture, is published as Part 6 of a major report by WRI – Creating a Sustainable Food Future.

It discusses the methods and results from a scoping exercise by the WRI to identify a preliminary list of indicators related to agriculture and the environment. The paper concludes by proposing next steps for developing indicators that measure the environmental sustainability of agriculture.

Its key findings include:

  • Countries and international organizations need to agree on an appropriate set of indicators. WRI has prepared a list of candidate indicators. While they need further analysis and vetting, they are a good starting place for decision-makers.
  • Government statistics offices, research institutions, and intergovernmental organizations working on agriculture and sustainability need to gather the necessary data. Advances in remote sensing technologies and crowd-sourcing methods could potentially help here.
  • Demand for indicators needs to grow—especially from governments, development agencies, the private sector, and civil society. The supply of data will follow the demand for it.

Read more about installment 6 of the WRI Creating a sustainable food future here. For more on Sustainable agriculture see FCRN’s work on sustainable intensification here. There is also the Science article Sustainable intensification in agriculture: premises and policies followed by Expert comments on sustainable intensification in agriculture.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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