01 June 2021

Closing knowledge gaps for sustainable agriculture

A IIASA led project to develop a Sustainable Agriculture Matrix (SAM) is supported by the “Pathways to Sustainability” funding initiative of the Belmont Forum. 

© Kero Stocker | Dreamstime.com

© Kero Stocker | Dreamstime.com

Pathways towards sustainable agriculture and the feasibility of measuring it remain 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 recently started research project SAM co-development, led on Austrian side by 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 and Thomas Schinko (EQU/POPJUS), IIASA work together with colleagues from the USA, Brazil, Morocco, Turkey, Kenya and South Africa on closing knowledge gaps to a more sustainable agricultural production. The consortium includes experts from natural, economic and social sciences, as well as stakeholders such as farmers, NGOs, industry, and policy makers.

Building on the global SAM indicator system and database developed so far, the consortium will focus on applications at national and subnational scales and work on new indicators for measuring sustainability more accurately and inform 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.

In total, thirteen new research networks involving 37 countries are supported by the funding initiative of the Belmont Forum and also the second Austrian project is led by an scientists from IIASA, Barbara Willaarts and Piotr Magnuszweski.

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Last edited: 01 June 2021


Christian Folberth

Research Scholar

Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services Research Group

Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 451


Sustainable Agriculture Matrix.

Further information

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313