The 'SMART' way of assessing the sustainability of English and Welsh farms
Searching for Garden of Eden in Agriculture blog
Immo and Alfréd blogged during their field work and you can find out what they got up to!
Holistic sustainability assessment of farms in the UK managed according to Permaculture principles and compared to certified organic and conventional farms using the Swiss SMART indicator system (Sustainability Monitoring Assessement RouTine).
MSc student Alfréd Szilágyi (Szent Istvan University, Gödöllő, Hungary) and Research Fellow Dr Immo Fiebrig (CAWR).
Establishing sustainability related benefits of agriculture according to Permaculture principles within a setting of farming for subsistence, community wellbeing and for commercial purposes compared to other well established systems.
The project represents a replication of a study carried out in Hungary earlier this year. In the UK we assessed 21 different farming systems, mostly productive enterprises. The assessments entailed both, an in-depth interview with the farm manager and a farm walk. Farm performance was assessed holistically taking into account indicators related to ecologic, economic and social sustainability on farms ranging from smallholdings to larger arable systems. They were located in England (London, Midlands, East Anglia and South West) and Wales (South and Mid Wales). Data analysis is still ongoing but from a first look at it we find that small-scale alternative (organic or permaculture) farms tend to score better within many dimensions of sustainability as opposed to conventional producers; farms committed to Permaculture principles tend to attain the highest scores. The methodology still has to be reviewed in terms of its explanatory power. However, the entire project seems to us like a long-awaited pioneering start on putting figures to Permaculture's potential benefits and achievements using an integrated peer-reviewed assessment tool.
Supporting data showing the benefits of alternative farming systems and their contribution to e. g. climate change mitigation, soil conservation and regeneration, conservation of biodiversity, improvements in social wellbeing and financial resilience using an internationally deployed sustainability assessment tool (SMART).
To the Permaculture Association UK and the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm for their support in finding adequate research sites; to all the farmers for their support, openness and patience when showing us their farms during a very busy period of the year and for answering the many questions posed by the interviewers Alfréd and Immo; to the Forschungsinstitut für Biologische Landwirtschaft FiBL (Frick, Switzerland) for making SMART available to research; to the Centre of Agroecology, Water and Resilience of Coventry University and the EU funded ERASMUS Student Mobility Scheme for indispensable financial support.
Innovative designs of sustainable agro-hydro-health systems
Under the Researcher Links scheme offered within the Newton Fund, the British Council and Akademi Sains Malaysia will be holding a 5-day workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia commencing on 31 July 2017. The workshop is being coordinated by Professor Sue Charlesworth (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University) and Associate Professor Dr. Abdul Halim Ghazali (Universiti Putra Malaysia), and will have contributions from other leading researchers. The workshop will explore the following research topics in relation to ‘off-grid’ communities.
Blooms for Bees
Blooms for Bees aims to promote bee-friendly gardening and encourage citizen scientists from across the UK to explore the presence and floral preferences of bumblebees in their gardens and allotments.
Austerity Retail in Britain
This project aims to critically examine the emergence of what we call ‘austerity retail’ initiatives amidst rising food poverty in Britain. These include ‘social supermarkets’ and other forms of ‘community shop’ offering highly discounted products, and often making use of ‘surplus’ or ‘rejected’ foods which would otherwise be thrown away. We plan to use the findings from this project as a platform to explore a larger research project on austerity retail initiatives in the particular context of food poverty in Coventry.