Espace web des professionnels
de l'enseignement agricole français
Idea, Indicateur de Durabilité des Exploitations Agricoles

Beware! This Page is not an element of the full IDEA web site translated in English. It is just a single page wich presents basically the IDEA method. So, if you follow the links on the right frange you will return to the french web site.


Presentation of the IDEA Method


Development context of the IDEA method

"Although the definition of sustainable development put forward in the Brundtland Report is now generally accepted (mode of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”), its application in agricultural operations still raises many scientific questions.
Since the United Nations Rio Conference (UNCED, 1992), the European Union has been working to integrate the transversal character of sustainable development into its policies in all the different sectors of activity. The last reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (2003) partly expressed the EU’s determination to establish sustainable development as one of the guiding principles of European policies by establishing the principle of cross compliance1 and support for types of agriculture that favour the environment (Article 69 of the CAP regulation N°1782/2003).

The European Commission also supports the elaboration of indicators of sustainability in agriculture with a view first to orientating policies in favour of sustainable farming and then to assessing them (European Commission, 2000, 2001). However, these political objectives raise the question of the conception of new indicators to evaluate the degree of sustainability of an agricultural production system. How can we go about translating the concept of sustainability into operational terms on the level of individual farms? In France, this question has led to scientific consideration of how to apprehend sustainability through indicators.

In this context, a French multi-disciplinary research work has given this concept of sustainability its practical expression in the elaboration of the IDEA method (Indicateurs de Durabilité des Exploitations Agricoles or Farm Sustainability Indicators method) (Vilain et al., 2003). This method, conceived as a self-assessment grid for farmers, provides operational content for the notion of agricultural sustainability." (extract from Farm sustainability Assessment using the IDEA Method (F. Zahm, P. Viaux, P. Girardin, L. Vilain, C. Mouchet, INFASA symposium March 16 th and 17 th 2006, Zentrum Paul Klee Bern, Switzerland)


Elaboration of the IDEA method

"To give a meaning to the notion of sustainable agriculture, it is first necessary to transcribe the concept of sustainability into a conceptual model based on clearly identified sustainability objectives. This conceptual stage is indispensable scientifically, because it enables us to state the conceptual hypotheses clearly and therefore to engage debate later. Aside from the necessary conceptual rigour mentioned, this approach has the advantage of being pedagogical by serving as a guide for the user to understand and interpret the indicators that are constructed.

Thus, in the IDEA method, this prior in-depth conceptual analysis revealed the main objectives underlying each of the indicators. They concern:

  • on the one hand, the preservation of natural resources (water, air, soil, biodiversity, landscape and mining resources),
  • and, on the other hand, social values that are characteristic of a certain degree of socialisation and are implicit in sustainable agriculture (ethics, quality, socialy aware practices…).

This method is structured around objectives which are grouped together to form three sustainability scales. Each of these three scales is subdivided into three or four components (making a total of 10 components) which in turn are made up of a total of 41 indicators.

The objectives of the agroecological scale refer to the agronomic principles of integrated agriculture (Viaux, 1999). They must enable good economic efficiency at as low as possible an ecological cost. Those of the socio-territorial sustainability scale refer more to ethics and human development, essential features of sustainable agricultural systems. Lastly, the objectives of the economic sustainability scale specify the essential notions relating to the entrepreneurial function of the farm."

Extract from Farm sustainability Assessment using the IDEA Method (F. Zahm, P. Viaux, P. Girardin, L. Vilain, C. Mouchet, INFASA symposium March 16 th and 17 th 2006, Zentrum Paul Klee Bern, Switzerland)


Download the full version of the scientific article : Farm sustainability Assessment using the IDEA Method


french web site