2000-2002: Application of
the national sustainable agriculture indicators to farm level (Ref.
In 2000, Defra (then MAFF)
published a pilot set of sustainability indicators to provide a means
of measuring the economic, social and environmental impacts of
agriculture in Great Britain and to help assess the effectiveness of
policies and the sustainability of the sector. As policy tools, many of
the indicators are highly technical in nature and/or relevant only at
regional or national level. Few have direct, close links with on-farm
management decisions and some are not directly measurable on farm.
There is no breakdown of the indicator values for differing farm types
nor geographical demarcation. Consequently, attempts to persuade
farmers to take note and respond to messages provided by the indicator
trends, were likely to hindered. However, changes at farm level are
required before improvements at national level will be seen.
This Defra funded project,
carried out in collaboration with LEAF, sought to address this issue by
describing the National Indicators at farm level using a variety of
techniques (including disaggregation, harmonisation and use of
surrogate indicators). A simple software tool was developed for
farmers, known as FarmSmart, which stands for indicators of sustainable
agriculture that are Farm Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic,
and Timely. FarmSmart collated relevant farm level information to
identify appropriate indicator values for a specific farm types and
locations and presented the information within a farm management
context. Consequently, farmers were provided with information to help
them select indicators relevant to their situation, assess their
performance and take practical steps for improvements where required.
The project also included a
significant amount of awareness raising to promote the concept and
objectives of the pilot national and farm level indicators including
farm workshops and the production of an audio cassette (available here
as an MP3 file) introducing the concepts of sustainability and the use
- van der Werf, H.M.G.,
Tzilivakis, J., Lewis,
K.A. & Basset-Mens, C. (2007). Environmental impacts of farm
scenarios according to five assessment methods. Agriculture,
Ecosystems and Environment 118, 327-338.
- Tzilivakis, J. &
Lewis, K.A. (2004). The development and use of farm level indicators in
England. Sustainable Development 12, 107-120.
- Green, A., Lewis, K.A.,
Tzilivakis, J. &
Warner, D.J. (2002). Indicators of agricultural sustainability - are
they relevant to grassland management? Proceedings of the British
Grassland Society Winter Conference - Profitable Grass and Forage:
Meeting the needs of the farmer and sosciety. 27-28 November 2002,
Stafford, UK. The British Grassland Society, Reading, UK.
Dr Andy Green