A quantitative framework for evaluating the sustainability of Irish potato cropping systems after the landmark agrarian reform in Zimbabwe

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 12
  • SDG 2
  • Abstract:

    Frameworks to evaluate the sustainability of cropping systems in developing countries are scarce. This study proposes a framework to select easily quantifiable indicators that can be used to assess and communicate the sustainability of cropping systems in developing countries. The widely accepted social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability were covered using predefined criteria from which the indicators were then drawn. An initial list of indicators was established based on literature review and expert opinion, and through filtering reduced to 16 core indicators. Using the case of Irish potatobased cropping systems, a grower survey was conducted to collect data on production practices in four different cropping systems. The survey data were then used to calculate the sustainability indicators expressed as resource use efficiencies based on actual potato yields. The survey data also served as input into the Cool Farm Tool – Potato model to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from farm operations involved in potato production. With the help of local agricultural extension officers, focus group discussions were held with farmers of each production system to decide on sustainable and unsustainable indicator threshold levels. The participatory nature of the framework involving farmers and local extension officers secured buy-in from key stakeholders important for operationalization, monitoring and evaluation.