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Towards a harmonized framework for assessing the sustainability of agricultural chains: propositions for building a multidisciplinary dialogue

Martin P., Rafflegeau S., Fabiano F., Mendez Del Villar P., Basset-Mens C., Bessou C., Biard Y., Feschet P., Lançon F.. 2016. In : AC and SD 2016 Agri-Chains and Sustainable Development: linking local and global dynamics. Montpellier : CIRAD, p. 237-238. International Conference on Agri-Chains and Sustainable Development, 2016-12-12/2016-12-14, Montpellier (France).

Introduction. In recent years, we assisted to a rise of concern about sustainability issues, by public authorities and by society at large, which is officially captured by the signature of the 2030 agenda and the conception of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. As a consequence of these trends, new needs are emerging in terms of assessment of value chains including agricultural ones. Value chains have been assessed historically using a socio-economic approach often coupled with the agro-technologic one. These two approaches consider the social and the economic dimensions of sustainability but do not account for the environmental impacts of value chains. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods were developed with a focus on evaluating this dimension. More recently, Social LCA, following the life cycle thinking approach, was also launched to include social-economic considerations in the analysis. In order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the sustainability and contribution to sustainable development of value chains, multiple parallel analyses should be done. However, the results so produced are often hard to compare and integrate. Thus these assessment efforts reveal to be expensive and inefficient. This paper intends to addressing the issue of initiating a fruitful multidisciplinary dialogue and investigating the possibility of integration of the above discussed methods. The paper will therefore confront these different perceptions, by mapping their similarities and differences and taking into account the lexical ambiguity of the vocabulary (synonymy, polysemy, etc.). The final objective of this work is to bring the different methods as close as possible and to propose a multidisciplinary harmonized frame-work for assessing the sustainability of agricultural chains. This framework will consider, on the one hand, the system representation and, on the other hand, the data types required by each approach to produce the assessment. Methodology. The construction of the harmonized framework is conducted using a knowledge management approach. It is based on an ontology developed according to the NeON methodology. Discussion and conclusion. This work started in June 2016, through a series of meetings and will proceed during autumn 2016. Associated to the ontology, a thesaurus will manage the lexical ambiguity of the vocabulary. A first operational outcome of this work will emerge within the EuropeAid programme ¿Inclusive and Sustainable Value Chains¿ (2016-2019), where CIRAD experts as part of the AGRINATURA consortium, are called to assess the sustainability of thirty agricultural chains in developing countries. The harmonised framework will facilitate the coordination and joint work of experts of different disciplines involved in these assessments and will allow the identification of a harmonized dataset required for the different approaches. The latter will improve data collection efficiency, in terms of costs and of employment of time. The harmonized framework will also contribute to develop a CIRAD Knowledge Base System devoted more broadly to the investigation of the topic: ¿agricultural chains & sustainable development¿ (2016-2019).Finally, building the harmonized conceptual framework is the first step of a broader effort to develop an interdisciplinary method for assessing the contribution of value chains to sustainable development. Later steps will require a strong investment in the underlying theory of the four approaches in order to generate a general inclusive theory. (Texte intégral)...

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