Inderscience Publishers

Design of sustainability indicators of the production systems in Brazilian semi-arid area by the analysis of biomass flows

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In the north-eastern semi-arid area of Brazil, because of climatic and economic risks, production systems use limited amounts of inputs and instead exploit accumulated fertility. The substitution of the woody native vegetation by pastures has led to its almost total deforestation. The environmental and socio-economic viability of these systems is thus questionable. Consequently, a team made up of researchers from Semi-Arid Embrapa and Cirad centres tested a methodology to design sustainability indicators. In this paper, we first present some methods used to design indicators of the sustainability of production systems; secondly we describe the approach used which consisted in defining a conceptual framework based on the characterisation of the biomass flows within a farm, that enabled us to simultaneously analyse the production systems as a whole; and assess the state of resources. This framework was validated thanks to farmers 'focus groups'. Finally we discuss its potential for change and drawbacks.

Keywords: agroecology, farm resources, biomass flows, Brazil, sustainability indicators, semi-arid areas, sustainable development, production systems, agriculture

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