Dairy development should not only emphasize on increasing the production, but should also consider different aspects of sustainability including people, profit and planet. Dairy development needs to contribute to affordable safe and nutritious diets, employment and livelihoods and in sustaining the agroecological base. Sustainable dairy development pathways should address these people-profit-planet objectives simultaneously and their holistic assessment should support practitioners and policy makers reflect on the multiple trade-offs that occur based on the choices being made.
There is need for a tool that could support informed discussions on present status, intervention options and the win-wins and trade-offs of these interventions, and also giving recommendations on how best to balance/address trade-offs in dairy farms. It is also important for the tool to consider future climate change impact on well-being, meanwhile public debates on ‘the circular economy’, ‘planet boundaries’ and ‘dietary shift’ in the global North have raised the focus on environmental and health impact of dairy. Meanwhile more consideration is required for resilience, which is becoming more important in the sustainability debate, though not yet covered in some available tools. A growing number of sustainability assessment tools have been developed to support farmers and policy makers in developing sustainable agriculture. Each tool has strengths and weaknesses and therefore selection of suitable tools for the East African context needs to be carefully done.
This study assessed 42 sustainability assessment tools that have been developed and used in different countries to monitor people, planet and profit dimensions of dairy farming. Based on the list of eight criteria developed, four tools were identified with a good potential for use in the assessment of sustainability of dairy farming systems in East Africa. These tools include RISE, IDEA, SAFA and PG. These were further evaluated on a more stringent triple P criteria focusing on data requirements, simplicity and user friendliness, reliability of results, and effectiveness. Based on this evaluation, it was concluded that the RISE and SAFA could be the most appropriate existing tools for assessing sustainability of dairy farming in East Africa. However, for generating more robust outputs for the East African context, the selected tool would need to be adjusted by removing less relevant and adding new sub-criteria to the list of criteria, and by modification of questions to make them easier understandable, among others.
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