In recent years, the scientific community has offered countless approaches for the definition and the evaluation of sustainability in agriculture. Nevertheless, these tools have not yet determined the concept in a complete way. In addition, the complexity and diversity of the agricultural sector contribute to increase the difficulties. Despite these issues, there is a certain sharing in the paradigm of its multidimensionality that integrates the popular environmental goals with the economic and social rights. Numerous studies have contributed to the definition of sustainability but only few were able to offer a common approach able to determine whether a farm is sustainable or not. For this reason researchers are frequently asked to find objective tools useful to the achievement of a shared methodological approach. This is a difficult task due to different reasons: conceptual, related to the difficulty of determining what is required to a farm to be defined as "sustainable", methodological, because of the complexity of an evaluation based on both temporal and spatial dimensions, and politic because of the involvement of many stakeholders with different, and sometimes even opposite, objectives. At the farm scale, the use of quantitative indicators is particularly popular because of their ability of adaptation to different territorial systems and the use of accessible data. This work wants to be a participation in the debate on the sustainability of farms and a contribution in the discussion about the most important methodological issues. Therefore, a tool for the assessment of environmental, social and economic performances of farms is here proposed. The aim of this work was to illustrate a new methodological process in order to formulate a framework focused on a general context, as a tool for decision support useful for farmers, policy-makers and researchers. The work was carried out on a sample of 50 farms of the region of the South Milan Agricultural Park (PASM) that covers an area of about 40,000 hectares surrounding the city of Milan (Northern Italy). Data collection involved interviews to farmers through questionnaires, the use of the SIARL database, documents and previous projects. The method is named 4Agro. From the methodological point of view, the approach has been created in order to provide indexes of evaluation of each pillar of sustainability (environmental, social, economic and a theoretical proposal for the evaluation of the institutional issues) of farms starting from their raw data. These information are then concerted in indexes by indicators, previously selected by a literature review, edited and weighted according to the objective of the case study. The direct processing of the results, called Farm ranking approaches, are evaluation processes that allow the classification of different farms, homogeneous groups of them or of the same farm during time. In order to assess the robustness of the methodological framework and to find out the presence of redundant information, a statistical analysis was carried out on the results of each indicator. Moreover, considering the critical issues related to the data availability and cost, the survey proposed a statistical approach for the indicators reduction and, consequently, the data requirement. In conclusion, this study proposed a new framework for the assessment of farm sustainability. The survey provided some relevant methodological solution but further developments seem to be anyway needed. Firstly, the objective of finding a shared framework for different contexts is conceptually reasonable. However, methodologically, this goal requires necessary adjustments and the need of a good knowledge of the case study. Secondly, issues related to farms’ data (selection, security, utilization) have raised some relevant practical problems. In the present study, a statistical approach has been proposed with the main goal to achieve a proper balance between quality and quantity of information. While the approach has proved to be methodologically appropriate, its application for the present case study has raised some important questions about the plausibility to include other quantitative variables such as the source of data and their cost. Finally, the use of Farm ranking approaches seemed particularly suitable to be used at different levels. Furthermore, the tool is a valuable support for policy-makers to assess the level of sustainability achieved by farmers who have adopted or who should take their policies. This research has highlighted a certain reasonableness in the proposal of assessing of a fourth scale, that could be useful in order to determine the effectiveness of the policy-makers’ decisions.

AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT AT THE FARM LEVEL: AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS ON THE PARCO AGRICOLO SUD MILANO / M. Bertocchi ; tutor: A. Pirani ; coordinator: R. Pretolani. - : . DIPARTIMENTO DI SCIENZE VETERINARIE PER LA SALUTE, LA PRODUZIONE ANIMALE E LA SICUREZZA ALIMENTARE, 2015 Dec 17. ((28. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2015. [10.13130/bertocchi-mattia_phd2015-12-17].

AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT AT THE FARM LEVEL: AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS ON THE PARCO AGRICOLO SUD MILANO

M. Bertocchi
2015-12-17

Abstract

In recent years, the scientific community has offered countless approaches for the definition and the evaluation of sustainability in agriculture. Nevertheless, these tools have not yet determined the concept in a complete way. In addition, the complexity and diversity of the agricultural sector contribute to increase the difficulties. Despite these issues, there is a certain sharing in the paradigm of its multidimensionality that integrates the popular environmental goals with the economic and social rights. Numerous studies have contributed to the definition of sustainability but only few were able to offer a common approach able to determine whether a farm is sustainable or not. For this reason researchers are frequently asked to find objective tools useful to the achievement of a shared methodological approach. This is a difficult task due to different reasons: conceptual, related to the difficulty of determining what is required to a farm to be defined as "sustainable", methodological, because of the complexity of an evaluation based on both temporal and spatial dimensions, and politic because of the involvement of many stakeholders with different, and sometimes even opposite, objectives. At the farm scale, the use of quantitative indicators is particularly popular because of their ability of adaptation to different territorial systems and the use of accessible data. This work wants to be a participation in the debate on the sustainability of farms and a contribution in the discussion about the most important methodological issues. Therefore, a tool for the assessment of environmental, social and economic performances of farms is here proposed. The aim of this work was to illustrate a new methodological process in order to formulate a framework focused on a general context, as a tool for decision support useful for farmers, policy-makers and researchers. The work was carried out on a sample of 50 farms of the region of the South Milan Agricultural Park (PASM) that covers an area of about 40,000 hectares surrounding the city of Milan (Northern Italy). Data collection involved interviews to farmers through questionnaires, the use of the SIARL database, documents and previous projects. The method is named 4Agro. From the methodological point of view, the approach has been created in order to provide indexes of evaluation of each pillar of sustainability (environmental, social, economic and a theoretical proposal for the evaluation of the institutional issues) of farms starting from their raw data. These information are then concerted in indexes by indicators, previously selected by a literature review, edited and weighted according to the objective of the case study. The direct processing of the results, called Farm ranking approaches, are evaluation processes that allow the classification of different farms, homogeneous groups of them or of the same farm during time. In order to assess the robustness of the methodological framework and to find out the presence of redundant information, a statistical analysis was carried out on the results of each indicator. Moreover, considering the critical issues related to the data availability and cost, the survey proposed a statistical approach for the indicators reduction and, consequently, the data requirement. In conclusion, this study proposed a new framework for the assessment of farm sustainability. The survey provided some relevant methodological solution but further developments seem to be anyway needed. Firstly, the objective of finding a shared framework for different contexts is conceptually reasonable. However, methodologically, this goal requires necessary adjustments and the need of a good knowledge of the case study. Secondly, issues related to farms’ data (selection, security, utilization) have raised some relevant practical problems. In the present study, a statistical approach has been proposed with the main goal to achieve a proper balance between quality and quantity of information. While the approach has proved to be methodologically appropriate, its application for the present case study has raised some important questions about the plausibility to include other quantitative variables such as the source of data and their cost. Finally, the use of Farm ranking approaches seemed particularly suitable to be used at different levels. Furthermore, the tool is a valuable support for policy-makers to assess the level of sustainability achieved by farmers who have adopted or who should take their policies. This research has highlighted a certain reasonableness in the proposal of assessing of a fourth scale, that could be useful in order to determine the effectiveness of the policy-makers’ decisions.
PIRANI, ALBERTO
PRETOLANI, ROBERTO
Settore AGR/01 - Economia ed Estimo Rurale
AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT AT THE FARM LEVEL: AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS ON THE PARCO AGRICOLO SUD MILANO / M. Bertocchi ; tutor: A. Pirani ; coordinator: R. Pretolani. - : . DIPARTIMENTO DI SCIENZE VETERINARIE PER LA SALUTE, LA PRODUZIONE ANIMALE E LA SICUREZZA ALIMENTARE, 2015 Dec 17. ((28. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2015. [10.13130/bertocchi-mattia_phd2015-12-17].
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