Sustainability is well on its way to become the most stuffed buzzword of our timeframe. Everything these days is sustainable (if not resilient). But while the meaning may have eroded in public discourse, sustainability is still at the heart of what we do as an organization. That's why we find it important to define more clearly what sustainability means to Vredeseilanden/VECO and have a consistent understanding of the concept.
Agriculture can only meet the challenge to feed 9 billion people by 2050, when it is economically viable, socially just and ecologically balanced. In terms of agricultural sustainability, we refer to our earlier publication “Hot spots of sustainability”, in which we specify the tools and criteria we use today for measuring sustainability in the agri-cultural chains we’re working on. Generally speaking, we consider an intervention sustainable if its outcomes fit these criteria:
- An economically viable chain intervention is a chain intervention that generates profitability for all actors of the chain; it increases their income, generates more income stability and creates job opportunities; in short, it contributes to their financial and economic sustainability.
- A chain intervention is environmentally sound when it results in chains that minimize damage to natural resources, mitigate climate change, and recover and preserve ecosystems.
- A socially fair chain intervention generates more equity in the distribution of wealth, more social equity and gender equity; in this process, it recognises that family farmers’ participation and empowerment in decision making affecting the development of the chain is essential.
- A culturally acceptable chain intervention respects and supports the cultural identity of different human groups that operate and interact in the chain.
However, as an organization working in the field, we have to make decisions day by day to respond to changes in our environment. Each time new questions arise on what the "true sustainable choice" would be. As one might expect, there are no easy answers.
In the following articles, we formulate our position on some specific questions and issues that our colleagues encounter in their efforts to build sustainable agricultural chains.