Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 28, Number 2, April-June 2008
Page(s) 321 - 332
Published online 22 March 2008
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28 (2008) 321-332
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2008001

MOTIFS: a monitoring tool for integrated farm sustainability

Marijke Meul1, 2, Steven Van Passel3, Frank Nevens4, Joost Dessein1, Elke Rogge1, Annelies Mulier5 and Annelies Van Hauwermeiren6

1  Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research, Social Sciences Unit, Burg. van Gansberghelaan 109 box 2, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium
2  Ghent University, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
3  Hasselt University, Faculty of Applied Economics, Centre for Environmental Sciences, Agoralaan Building D (C57), 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
4  Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, Reep 1, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
5  Kokerstraat 24, 8750 Wingene, Belgium
6  Vlaamse Landmaatschappij, Cardijnlaan 1, 2200 Herentals, Belgium

Accepted 2 January 2008 ; published online 22 March 2008

Abstract - Indicator-based monitoring tools are frequently applied for sustainability assessments, also in agriculture. However, many indicators focus on a rather restricted number of sustainability aspects such as economy or ecology. Moreover the choice of the indicator is rarely explained. The aim of our study was to develop an indicator-based monitoring tool for integrated farm sustainability - i.e. taking into account economic and ecological and social aspects - based on a supported vision of sustainable agriculture and using a set of relevant indicators. Hereby, specific attention was paid to aspects of communication and user-friendliness. Four methodological steps were considered: (i) translating the major principles of a supported vision of sustainable Flemish agriculture into concrete and relevant themes; (ii) designing indicators to monitor progress towards sustainability for each of those themes; (iii) aggregating the indicators into an integrated farm sustainability monitoring tool and (iv) applying the monitoring tool on a practical farm, as a first attempt at end-use validation. Stakeholder participation and expert consulting played an important part in each of these methodological steps. As a case study, the methodology was applied to Flemish dairy farms. As a result, we developed MOTIFS, a user-friendly and strongly communicative indicator-based monitoring tool that allows the measurement of progress towards integrated sustainable dairy farming systems and fits within a well-founded methodological framework. MOTIFS is based on the equality of the economic, ecological and social sustainability dimensions, and this equality is inherently built into the system. Through the applied methodology, we founded the selected themes and indicators and we avoided using indicators that are not relevant to the problem at hand.

Key words: aggregation / dairy farms / indicators / integrated sustainability / monitoring / flanders

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008