Sustainability Pathways

Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems (SAFA)

Sustainable development has been defined by FAO as “the management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable”. (FAO Council, 1989).


Sustainable development has numerous definitions and its ecological, economic and social principles received universal agreement at the 1992 Earth Summit. One of the summit’s major outcomes, Agenda 21, includes a whole chapter (Chapter 14) on sustainable agriculture and rural development. Today, 106 countries have National Sustainable Development Strategies and at least 120 voluntary sustainability standards are being implemented by the food and agriculture industry. However, developing and implementing an integrated approach to analyzing different sustainability dimensions as a coherent whole and integrating them in development or business strategies remains a major challenge.

With a view to offer a fair playing field, FAO built on existing efforts and developed a universal framework for Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems (SAFA). After 5 years of participatory development (History of SAFA), SAFA has been presented to FAO member countries on 18 October 2013; the SAFA Guidelines, Indicators and Tool are freely downloadable from this webpage. Users are encouraged to test the Beta version of the SAFA Tool.