How to foster changes towards farm sustainability?

learning outcomes from a co-innovation project on vegetable-beef cattle family farms in Uruguay




participatory research, advisory system, system analysis tools


Current global challenges for family farmers, such as the deterioration of arable land and low family income, cannot be addressed only by working on single farm components. Improving the sustainability of family farms requires a multi-objective systems approach and may be seen as an evolutionary process composed of iterative learning cycles. We developed a co-innovation project from 2014 to 2017 that involved characterisation, diagnosis, redesign, and implementation and evaluation of the redesigns on farms. Low family income, low labour productivity and the deterioration of soil quality were the main problems impacting farm sustainability. We identified crop management factors and soil fertility deficiencies as the main causes of low yields. After three cycles of diagnosis, redesign, implementation and monitoring, the average family income increased by 32%, labour productivity increased by 22%, and all the farms implemented soil erosion control measurements. Greater implementation of the farm redesign plans resulted in greater improvements in family income, labour productivity, and crop yields. We identified four types of activities that supported learning throughout the co-innovation process: regular farm visits; meetings to discuss diagnosis, planning and evaluation; field days, and reflection workshops. The strategic use of system analysis tools to promote learning eased communication among different actors, allowing shared learning.


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How to Cite

Colnago P, Favretto G, Carriquiry ME, Bianco M, Carámbula M, Cabrera G, Rossing WA, Dogliotti S. How to foster changes towards farm sustainability? learning outcomes from a co-innovation project on vegetable-beef cattle family farms in Uruguay. Agrocienc Urug [Internet]. 2022 Dec. 6 [cited 2023 Feb. 5];27:e1012. Available from:



Plant production