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The five domains of sustainable intensification

Over the course of extensive discussions with scientists and a review of the literature, various dimensions of sustainability have emerged. These dimensions are classified into five domains: productivity, economic, environment, human condition and social. The assignment and choice of domains may have some level of ambiguity since some indicators have characteristics attributed to more than one domain. Learn more about our approach to defining these domains.

For our purposes, the domains are described and organized as follows:

Productivity: Increasing productivity is the essential characteristic of intensification, with the goal of increasing output per unit input per unit time (season or year). Following the SI literature, this domain focuses on land as a critical input, land degradation, and threatened biodiversity from loss of natural habitat. Intensification using inputs other than land (such as labor, fertilizer and capital) is captured in the economic domain.

Economic: This domain focuses on issues directly related to the profitability of agricultural activities and returns to factors of production. In addition to profitability, this domain includes indicators related to the productivity of inputs apart from land: water, nutrients, labor and capital. Furthermore, indicators likely to affect the probability of investment in enhancing productivity (market participation) are included. 

Environment: This domain focuses on the natural resource base that supports agriculture (e.g., soil, water), the environmental services directly affected by agricultural practices (e.g., habitat, water-holding capacity), and the level of pollution resulting from agriculture (pesticides, greenhouse gases).

Human condition: This domain contains indicators pertaining to the individual or household, including nutrition status, food security, and capacity to learn and adapt. These indicators affect an individual and do not require social interaction or interpersonal relationships. While these factors are dependent on social interactions (such as within the household or community), they are distinct from those in the social domain which directly focus on interpersonal relationships.

Social: This domain focuses on social interactions: equitable relationships across gender within the household, equitable relationships across social groups in a community or landscape, the level of collective action, and the ability to resolve conflicts related to agriculture and natural resource management.

Learn more about the domains