Sustainable Agriculture Matrix (SAM) Consortium workshop held to review stakeholder inputs from eight countries

November 9, 2022
The Sustainable Agriculture Matrix (SAM1) Consortium, a transdisciplinary and transnational network for guiding the pursuit of sustainable agriculture, held their second consortium meeting in Istanbul, Türkiye, October 20-21. This was a two-day event where partner organizations from around the world came together to share the results of their previous year’s work hosting  stakeholder workshops in eight countries and to formulate plans for the next phase of the SAM Consortium activities. 

This workshop is the first in-person meeting for partners from six countries and regions in the consortium, and it marks the critical transition from building transdisciplinary networks within each country to enhancing cross-country partnerships and co-learning in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture in different geographic and socioeconomic contexts.

Dr. Xin Zhang
Associate Professor, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory, and Principal Investigator (PI) for the SAM Consortium

The SAM consortium is composed of transdisciplinary teams from six major countries and regions including Austria, Brazil,South Africa,Sub-Saharan Africa, Türkiye, and the United States. Led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the consortium was established based on the successful release of the first edition of SAM, which provides the first-of-its-kind assessment for over 150 countries around the world with 18 related and measurable indicators of agriculture sustainability. This effort has been recognized2 as a vital tool to ensure the accountability of countries’ commitments towards United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and was recently funded by the Belmont Forum to further engage stakeholders to explore uses of this rich data to inform policies and stakeholder actions. 
Since the first kick-off meeting in August 2021, the SAM consortium has hosted 13 workshops in eight countries (i.e., Austria, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Türkiye, the United States of America), involving over 200 stakeholders from a wide range of sectors. Workshops used SAM as a starting point to evaluate the agricultural sustainability of each respective country and to develop strategies for improving sustainability performance. Through the workshops, stakeholders also provided feedback on the SAM framework and the first edition of the SAM indicators. The second consortium meeting served as a platform for country teams to share their experience in stakeholder engagement and feedback. 
The first day of the Consortium Meeting involved presentations from each country team followed by group discussions on strategies for SAM development & cross-country partnerships as well as a presentation on the similarities and  differences observed across workshops. Several common themes emerged from these discussions, such as the controversial role of trade in affecting agriculture sustainability in global south countries, differing sustainability concerns between developed and developing nations, and the need for improving social indicators. These discussions and presentations have strengthened capacity building and knowledge co-production across countries in the Consortium. The second day focused on the progress and plans of the Analysis and Dissemination Teams, subgroups of the Consortium. The Analysis Team’s efforts involve the development of alternative indicators, and adaptations of the framework going forward based on stakeholder feedback. The Dissemination Team is tasked with development of an interactive dashboard environment; policy roundtables; and press releases, all in an effort to expand the scope and scale of the Consortium’s outreach.
As a result of the two-day consortium meeting, the team identified both short-term and long-term deliverables between the various work themes of the SAM Consortium. In terms of the application of SAM, additional workshops will look to increase engagement with large- and small-holder farmers. Similarly, the Analysis Team intends to prioritize the modification of pre-existing indicators and the development of new/additional indicators and contextual information to aid in regional workshops; while the Dissemination Team has identified key short term and long term outreach efforts at both the national and international levels.
The second consortium meeting was hosted by Sabanci University (Türkiye) and partner organizations in attendance included Toros Agri Trade and Co. Inc. (Türkiye), Tekfen Agricultural Research Production and Marketing Inc. (Türkiye), the African Plant Nutrition Institute (Morocco), the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (Austria), the Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (Brazil),  the Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais (Brazil), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria), the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Center for Transformative Agricultural and Food Systems (South Africa), Oxfam America (United States), and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (United States). 

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