Sustainability Performance Assessment of the Participatory GuaranteeSystems: A case study in Beijing Farmers Market
Keywords:PGS, SAFA, sustainability performance assessment, synergies, trade-offs.
Among the range of incentives that might motivate farmers to adopt more sustainable practices, focus is given on the role thatinstitutionalinnovations such as Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) could play in the transition to sustainable agriculture. PGS are establishedby producers, consumers, local authorities and other interested stakeholders, and ensure that agreed sustainable agricultural practices areadopted. Despite the growing popularity, there is no an experimental assessment of sustainability performance of PGS in order to betterunderstand the role of PGS in sustainable agriculture. The objective of this study is to (a) assess the sustainability performance of PGScomprehensively, (b) to perform a systematic assessment of synergies and trade-offs between sustainability dimensions and themes and (c)to quantify the real influence of the selected sustainability themes on the least evolved theme. The Sustainability Assessments of Food andAgriculture Systems (SAFA) Guidelines published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provide a transparent and aggregatedframework to encompass all aspects of sustainability, as well as to understand how strength, weakness and progress could be tackled inthe farming systems. This study used the indicator-based SAFA consistent SAFA Tool to assess sustainability performance of BeijingFarmers Market (BFM) PGS in China. Based on the respective sustainability scores, the synergies and trade-offs between sustainabilitydimensions and themes were analyzed using the non-parametric Spearman correlation test, and a linear regression analysis was applied toidentify the influence that selected sustainability themes have on a poorly rated theme. The results displayed trade-offs between “EconomicResilience” dimension and other three sustainability dimensions, due to “Vulnerability” theme which was a most challenging and poorly-rated theme. At the same time, the “Holistic Management”, “Biodiversity” and “Water” themes had a significant effect (P<0.05) with thecapacity to decrease vulnerability level by 43.4%, 41.4% and 37.3%, respectively. Through its positive influence, “Social Well-Being”dimension enhanced the achievement of sustainability goals on other dimensions. The study further argues that with a committed andsupportive consumer base PGS could become a reservoir of social capital to build a fair and sustainable community. This study presents anew perspective leading to a guideline for other PGS initiatives those early in the sustainability journey.