Among the range of incentives that might motivate farmers to adopt more sustainable practices, focus is given on the role that institutional innovations such as PGS could play in the transition to sustainable agriculture. PGS are established by producers, consumers, local authorities and other interested stakeholders who collectively ensure that agreed sustainable agricultural practices are adopted. Despite the growing popularity, there is no an experimental assessment of sustainability performance (SP) of PGS in order to better understand the role of PGS in sustainable agriculture.
The objective of this study is to (a) assess a sustainability performance of PGS comprehensively, (b) perform a systematic assessment of synergies and trade-offs between sustainability dimensions and themes and (c) quantify the real influence of the selected sustainability themes on the least evolved theme.
The Sustainability Assessments of Food and Agriculture Systems (SAFA) Guidelines published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provides a transparent and aggregated framework to encompass all aspects of sustainability as well as to understand how strength, weakness and progress could be tackled in the farming systems. This study used the indicator-based SAFA consistent SAFA Tool to assess sustainability performance (SP) of the Beijing Farmers Market (BFM) PGS in China. Based on the respective sustainability scores, the synergies and trade-offs between sustainability dimensions and themes were analyzed using the non-parametric Spearman correlation test, and a linear regression analysis was applied to identify the influence that selected sustainability themes have on a poorly rated theme.
The results displayed trade-offs between economic dimension and other three sustainability dimensions, due to vulnerability theme which is a most challenging and poorly-rated theme. Whereas the holistic management, biodiversity and water themes had a significant effect (P<0.05) with the capacity to decrease vulnerability level by 43.4%, 41.4% and 37.3%, respectively. Through its positive influence, social dimension enhanced the achievement of sustainability goals on other dimensions. The study further argues that with a committed and supportive consumer base PGS could become a reservoir of social capital to build a fair and sustainable community.
This study presents a new perspective leading to a guideline for other PGS initiatives those early in the sustainability journey.
Keywords: PGS, SAFA, SP assessment, synergies, trade-offs