Drivers of agricultural sustainability in developing countries: a review

Pham, Luong; Smith, Carl
June 2014
Environment Systems & Decisions;Jun2014, Vol. 34 Issue 2, p326
Academic Journal
Agricultural development has been an effective instrument for poverty alleviation and economic development in developing countries over the latter half of the twentieth century, and over 80 % of rural people globally still depend on agriculture for their living. However, issues such as water availability, land degradation and an increasing dependence on chemical fertilisers and pesticides continue to be on-going threats to sustainable agricultural development. These threats are being driven by the pressing need to ensure food security in the face of rapidly growing and urbanising populations. Developing countries will therefore continue to need improved methods for planning sustainable agricultural development. This paper presents a review of agricultural sustainability assessment in developing countries. The review highlights some of the key weaknesses that persist in sustainability assessment and the need to consider not only indicators of sustainability but also the drivers that influence indicator behaviour. We argue that without a good understanding of the drivers of sustainability and their systemic relationships to indicators, sustainability assessments run the risk of focusing on symptoms without addressing underlying causes of adverse indicator trends. Drivers of agricultural sustainability in developing countries encompass a range of demographic, natural, socio-economic, political, institutional and management factors. Understanding these and their relationships to sustainability indicators is needed in order to develop agricultural development policy that supports sustainability. The paper presents a conceptual framework for guiding systemic agricultural sustainability assessment and agricultural development planning in developing countries that includes both sustainability indicators and drives, and considers the broad relationships between them.


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