The project is guiding the pursuit for sustainability by co-developing a Sustainable Agriculture Matrixis (SAM) supported by the “Pathways to Sustainability” funding initiative of the Belmont Forum. 

(SAM) Hand measuring envrironmental data effecting crop production in a field of wheat © © Kero Stocker |

Pathways towards sustainable agriculture and the feasibility of measuring it remains elusive, in part because it encompasses both biophysical and socio-economic components that are still poorly integrated. Furthermore, complex and regionally-variable trade-offs exist among the agriculture-related UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The project SAM co-development, led on the Austrian side by the IIASA environmental scientist Christian Folberth (BNR/AFE), addresses these gaps together with an international consortium. It builds upon an existing network of collaboration on the development of the Sustainable Agriculture Matrix (SAM), an indicator system for measuring agriculture sustainability. 

In the project, Christian Folberth and the team in Austria including Franz Sinabell (WIFO), Thomas Schinko and Susanne Hanger-Kopp (EQU/POPJUS), work together with colleagues from the USA, Brazil, Morocco, Turkey, Kenya and South Africa on closing knowledge gaps to more sustainable agricultural production. The consortium includes experts from natural, economic and social sciences, as well as stakeholders such as farmers, NGOs, industry, and policymakers.

Building on the global SAM indicator system and database developed so far, the consortium focus on applications at national and subnational scales and works on new indicators for measuring sustainability more accurately and informing decision-makers. Further, the project aims to improve the understanding of socio-economic and ecological dimensions, trade-offs and synergies among SAM indicators specific to each partner country.

The researchers from IIASA, as the Austrian country partner, will perform analyses of the aforementioned indicators and evaluate these jointly with stakeholders in the course of workshops.

The project is one of two projects in Austria that are supported by the international “Pathways to Sustainability” funding initiative of the Belmont Forum of which the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is a partnerThe aim of the funding initiative is to establish new transdisciplinary research networks to develop innovative solutions for achieving the SDGs.