This paper aims to estabish a working definition of sustainable agriculture. The paper advocates Agroecosystem Analysis, using the concepts of agroecosystems, agroecosystem hierarchies, agroecosystem properties and their trade-offs to stimulate interdisciplinary analysis. The paper argues that defining sustainability in terms of preservation or duration has little practical value. Long-term experiments to measure persistence are of research interest but take too long to constitute a practicable analytical method. By contrast, measuring the ability of an agroecosystem to withstand stress and shock is a subject for experiments using classical agricultural mothods. High sustainability is not the only desirable aspect of agricultural production and in many situations it may be necessary to trade a degree of sustainability for higher levels of productivity or equibility.
This paper may be of interest to government policy makers and planners in the South, NGO fieldworkers, agriculturalists and development researchers.
11th Annual Agricultural Farming Systems Research and Extension Symposium