Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Reflections on collectively working toward sustainability: indicators for indicators!

D. M. Freebairn and C. A. King

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 43(3) 223 - 238
Published: 08 April 2003


A variety of indicators have been developed and applied by farmers and scientists for the northern cereal belt. A general overview is presented of 'What are we trying to monitor?' followed by some example concepts; erosion hazard, salinity hazard, nutrient balance, production efficiency and participatory learning. These examples illustrate the complexity of indicator application and their dependence on context, purpose and scale. Emphasis is given to providing a rationale for developing indicators that focus on 'soft' system status (e.g. behaviour) as well as 'hard' system status. The propositions put forward are that indicators need to be integrated with the development of improved management systems, and that land managers (and community) as a collective, are key to this process. Some frequently asked questions about indicator development and application are responded to. Some 'Indicators for Indicators' that we have found useful in aiding indicator development, particularly in participatory fora are presented.

Keywords: farming systems, sustainability indicators, soft systems, participatory development, resource management.

© CSIRO 2003

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