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Internationally-based indicators to measure Agri-food systems sustainability using food sovereignty as a conceptual framework


Agri-food systems are essential not only in achieving food security but also in achieving both social and environmental sustainability. Despite different actors use different frameworks to define and assess food systems sustainability, there is growing consensus on the need to approach them from a complex socio-ecological systems perspective. However, existing frameworks often lack the political dimension in the analysis of food systems outcomes. Food sovereignty has emerged as a proposal that centers the discussion in the entire system putting emphasis on the political aspects of food. In this paper, using food sovereignty as a conceptual framework, we propose a quantitative methodology that allows analysis of the functioning of food systems at the international level. We present a database with 97 indicators distributed into six categories: 1) access to resources; 2) productive models; 3) commercialization; 4) food consumption and the right to food; 5) agrarian policies and civil society organization, and 6) gender. We also present the limitations found in developing the database as well as its potential applications for a wide variety of actors.

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  1. La Via Campesina is an international movement that emerged in 1993 from the union of millions of farmers, small producers, indigenous people and migrant workers. Currently it encompasses 164 local and national organizations in 73 different countries representing around 200 million peasants worldwide.

  2. This is different to the right to adequate food, as discussed by Beuchelt and Virchow (2012).


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This research project has its roots in the research project made in collaboration with Miquel Ortega-Cerdà, Neşat Çomak, and Mahmud Mohammed. The authors recognized their valuable participation in the early stages of the project and gratefully acknowledge their work and dedication. Dr. Rivera-Ferre is a Ramon y Cajal Research Fellow from the Spanish Ministry of Economy (MINECO). MS. Adriana Ruiz-Almeida held a grant of the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

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Correspondence to Marta G. Rivera-Ferre.

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The authors declared that they have no conflict of interest.

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Ruiz-Almeida, A., Rivera-Ferre, M.G. Internationally-based indicators to measure Agri-food systems sustainability using food sovereignty as a conceptual framework. Food Sec. 11, 1321–1337 (2019).

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  • Agri-food system
  • Food sovereignty
  • Food security
  • Sustainability
  • Indicators database
  • Political ecology