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Evaluating the Sustainability of Agriculture

The Case of the Reventado River Watershed in Costa Rica


Sabine Christine Müller

Sustainability is an important issue in the development debate but there is little consensus regarding what sustainable development really means and how its attainment can be evaluated. This book attempts to address the question of how the sustainability of agriculture could be assessed; the idea is then applied and analyzed in the case of a river watershed in Costa Rica. The sustainability of agriculture is described by indicators at the plot-, farm- and watershed-level. Reference values are determined which allow the measurement of changes in the indicator values caused by current land use. Multivariate statistical procedures and the assessment of frontier production functions for the principal crops are the main instruments of the empirical analysis. Furthermore, economic social and environmental indicators are aggregated to a «sustainability index» at the farm level in order to allow for comparison between farms. Policy options and possible interventions for the improvement of sustainability are then discussed and the study concludes with the lessons learned and suggestions for further research.
Contents: Key Concepts and Terminology of Sustainable Development and Sustainable Agriculture - Derivation of Sustainability Indicators of a Watershed in Costa Rica - Empirical Investigations of the Indicators - Evaluation of Sustainability - The Need for Aggregation of Indicators - Results and Implications for Evaluation and Policy Design.